FBI Agent Calls Padilla Evasive

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 12, 2007; 4:57 PM

MIAMI -- Jose Padilla gave evasive or vague answers about his activities in the Middle East shortly after arriving at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in May 2002, an FBI agent testified Thursday at his trial on a charge of supporting terrorism.

Padilla did not remember the address or telephone number for his wife and children in Egypt, or the last name of his roommate, agent Russell Fincher said.

In contrast, Padilla remembered many details of his life growing up in Chicago, including specific streets where his family lived, Fincher said. He also was carrying documents with other personal information such as his old address in Davie, Fla.

"He had the ability to recall and remember details over a long period of time," Fincher testified in the terrorism support trial of Padilla and two co-defendants. "The absence of that detail regarding questions of substance led me to believe Mr. Padilla was being evasive about his travels overseas."

Padilla, initially suspected of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the U.S., was arrested after that FBI interview on a material witness warrant and declared an enemy combatant by President Bush a month later. Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen, was held in a Navy brig without criminal charge until he was added to the Miami case in late 2005.

The jury, however, heard none of this history, except to learn that Padilla was arrested after arriving in Chicago on a direct flight from Switzerland. The "dirty bomb" allegations and Padilla's history as an enemy combatant are being kept out of the Miami case.

Padilla, a Muslim convert, moved from Florida to Egypt in 1998, allegedly after he was recruited for Islamic extremist causes by co-defendant Adham Amin Hassoun. Fincher testified Thursday that Padilla admitted in the 2002 FBI interview that he had lived in Egypt, but couldn't remember the address or the last name of his roommate, Mohamed.

Prosecutors contend that the roommate was Mohamed Youssef, another alleged terrorist recruit by the purported support cell that included Hassoun and the third defendant, Kifah Wael Jayyousi. Youssef was indicted in the Miami case but is in custody in Egypt and is not part of the trial.

In addition, Fincher said that although Padilla knew the names of his wife and two young sons in Egypt, he couldn't recall the address of their home in Cairo or their phone number. He remembered making a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia known as the Hajj but could not remember the names of a Saudi and a Pakistani he met there.

"There was a diminishing level of completeness of answers," Fincher said.

Padilla admitted traveling to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but denied going to Yemen or Afghanistan. Prosecutors say Padilla went through Yemen to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, where he purportedly filled out a "mujahedeen data form" that is a key piece of evidence in the case.

Also Thursday, a Secret Service document analyst testified that the form attributed to Padilla was consistent with others recovered by the CIA in a binder in Afghanistan in December 2001. The forms appeared to be authentic and to have been copied from a single original on the same copying equipment, analyst Jerry LaPorte testified.

There were two types of ink and two different pens used to fill out the supposed Padilla form, he added. LaPorte testified he couldn't tell when the entries were completed, although the form bears a date of July 24, 2000.

Prosecutors expect to rest their case Friday, the end of the ninth week of testimony. Defense lawyers are scheduled to begin next week on their case, which will likely continue into August.

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