•Ramzi Yousef planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six and injured at least 1,000 and was the mastermind of a foiled 1995 plot to assassinate the pope and simultaneously bomb 11 airliners carrying 4,000 passengers.
In contrast, according to federal prosecutors, Padilla attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
Prosecutors presented no evidence of Padilla's involvement in (or knowledge of) any plan to murder, kidnap, or maim anyone. Instead, prosecutors told the jury that by attending the training camp in Afghanistan, Padilla had demonstrated his intent to engage in violent jihad.
The law doesn't require proof of involvement in a specific act of violence, prosecutors say. Padilla and his two codefendants, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi, were convicted of supporting violent jihad overseas by providing money, equipment, and recruits to a broad conspiracy among Muslim radicals. Padilla's role in the conspiracy was to provide himself as a recruit, according to prosecutors.
"Jose Padilla is properly characterized as a trained Al Qaeda killer," assistant US Attorney Brian Frazier told Judge Cook. "[Life in prison] is the only appropriate punishment for Jose Padilla," he said.
But how is a judge to assess the seriousness of Padilla's conduct without evidence of Al Qaeda's future plans for him (if any), or evidence of Padilla's willingness (or refusal) to carry out a specific terrorist attack? Was he recruited to be a cook or an assassin, a carpenter or a suicide bomber?