Peppermint Tea and Padilla
When I attended the opening of the Jose Padilla trial–can it be two months ago–I noticed two middle aged women in the small, packed Miami courtroom. I realized that for some folks public trials are a welcome alternative to Court TV, or even Dr. Phil and Oprah.
I tried to imagine how the two ladies, let’s call them Nancy and Maureen, might react to “this week in Padilla.”
“I’m sorry you missed the trial today, Maureen. The wife of one of the conspirators–they played a tape and Nahed, that’s her name. She’s the one married to Hassoun, yeah, rhymes with Sassoon, that’s how I remember it. Well Nahed said her husband knew their phones were tapped, but he blabbed anyway. I downloaded the story from that woman, you know, the one with brown hair from–right–Carol Williams, Los Angeles Times. Listen to this:
Hassoun’s wife, Nahed, commented to one caller — who phoned to convey suspicions that Hassoun was under surveillance — that “we know that the lines are always … always monitored, but Adham doesn’t care … he talks.”
“She said it Maureen, right on the tape! We heard it. Her husband had to sit through that. His name’s Adham–kind of like our Adam. Then there’s the one with the funny sounding name. Kifah Wael Jauyousi. Those two are older. They just have to listen. What are they thinking? Jose’s American– a citizen. Yeah, the short stock one, younger. He was locked up for more than three years–no lawyer. Yeah, he’s the one they accused of dirty bomb making, then something about gas stoves and blowing up buildings. Nothing ever came of that.
“I wish they were more attractive. Neither one of them looking anything like Michael Ealy or the dark handsome one on “Sleeper Cell”–Oded, yeah Oded Fehr.
“These three–or at least the two of them–they just loved to talk. There was one exciting part, they played. Here. Carol’s got it quoted:
“It’s gonna happen soon,” Padilla says in a deep, tough sounding voice. He left South Florida for Egypt 15 months later.
“That did sound ominous. But most of the time, it was a little hard to follow. Here’s how Carol described it:
The discussions played for the jury covered mostly logistic matters: how to get a satellite telephone to Muslim rebels in Chechnya, how to get money to would be holy warriors in the Middle East, how to move volunteers to Kosovo or Bosnia to help defend Muslims under siege by Serbian and Croatian Christians.
For the jurors, it was a global history lesson ranging back to the 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, involving complicated conflicts.
“Here’s what’s tricky Maureen. Muslims are rebels in Chechnya – fighting the Russians.
Remember when we were fighting the Russians? And these conspirators were helping them. Now I’m not on the side of the Muslims, but in some of these places like Bosnia and Kosova, they are, well, the underdog. No, I’m on the side of the Christians, of course. But, well, it’s not always black and white. Anyway, I’m taking notes for you, until you get better, but it’s hard to keep it straight. There’s the code business–this means that and that means this… That’s why I download Carol Williams. She helps me sort it out.
Prosecutors jumped from year to year and battle to battle in a presentation apparently aimed at providing the jury with a glossary of allegedly coded language, such as using the word “tourism” in the place of jihad, “getting married” for killed in battle, “green goods” for money and “iron” for weaponry.
“And their voices were gravelly and whispery. Can you imagine those poor FBI guys listening to almost a half million phone calls? They’ve been following the two older guys with the odd names since 1993. Fourteen years of listening to phone calls. Even for snoops that must get boring.
“Well, it turns out this Hassoun and Jahhousi, they kept trying to help Muslims all over the world Back in the 90’s we didn’t worry so much about them, remember? Carol says, yeah, the reporter, she says:
The overall effect of the rapid fire tour of the world’s hotspots might have been to show the jury how keenly Hassoun and Jayyousi followed the fate of Muslims under attack abroad and how passionately they sought to help them. The tone and language of the talks also may have left an impression that the men were trying to hide something and up to no good.
“Well Maureen, they may have been up to no good, but I sent money to Ireland around that time and it might have gone to buy guns. I just didn’t want to see my cousins over there getting killed, so I don’t know. Here’s what Carol says:
Assistant U.S. Atty. Brian Frazier walked the jury through each of the taped conversations by questioning FBI case agent John Kavanaugh about his understanding of the true meanings of the words.
Frazier and three other government lawyers prosecuting the trio have cast Hassoun and Jayyousi as the respective ideological and logistical leaders of a North American terrorist support cell in operation since the early 1990s.
“Okay Maureen, here’s the question. Were the two guys with the names part of a cell–a not very sleepy sleeper-cell since they were always up and talking on the phone, but part of a cell planning to blow up innocent people, maybe asking the younger Padilla to join them—or were they guys trying to help relatives and such outgunned in places like Chechnya and Kosovo? Should Padilla be grouped with them, even if he had a few talks with them– maybe seven calls out of all the thousands. They say Padilla was tortured. I’d say anything if they tortured me.
“Gotta go. Peppermint tea – that always helps with the flu. I’ll stay on top of the trial for you. Sure I’m going tomorrow. I wouldn’t miss it. Bye, Maureen.”
(With Rachel M. Koch)
Lew can be reached at lew dot koch at gmail dot com.