Debra J. Saunders

 The New York Times' Sunday profile of accused dirty-bomb terrorist Jose Padilla reports that, at age 14, Padilla was involved in a fateful armed robbery. Padilla's accomplice fatally stabbed a Mexican immigrant, and Padilla kicked victim Elio Evangelista in the head "because he felt like it," according to records.

 At age 20, Padilla brandished a gun in a fit of road rage. Authorities then charged him with battery against a jail guard. Padilla repented and pleaded guilty. He found Jesus.

 Then, he found Mohammed. He got out of jail and found work. He married. In 1998, Padilla went to Egypt to get closer to Islam and teach English. He became engaged to 19-year-old Shamia'a. His American wife learned of the betrothal through an Egyptian American friend.

 After her pleading failed, Padilla's wife dutifully divorced him. Padilla married Shamia'a and then left his pregnant wife in Egypt while he went to Yemen, he said, to teach English. As she stayed behind and bore another child, Padilla traveled through the Middle East, to Pakistan and then to Switzerland. In 2002, Padilla was arrested in Chicago after senior al Qaeda official Abu Zubaydah fingered him for his involvement in an alleged dirty-bomb plot.

 So here's the paragraph in the story by Times reporter Deborah Sontag that truly baffles me: Padilla's "journey covered significant territory, geographically, emotionally and spiritually, and family and friends paint a vivid picture of Jose Padilla. If he lived a double life, they were unaware of it. And the American government has said so little beyond its initial, startling allegations about Mr. Padilla that it is difficult to reconcile the two portrayals -- the man his relatives thought they knew and the man the government calls an enemy of his homeland."

 What's difficult to reconcile? Where is the good Jose Padilla that is supposed to balance the bad? When he was young, Padilla was a thug. After he found God as an adult, he was a heel. Whether he's guilty of plotting to set off a dirty bomb, I don't know, but Padilla's biography certainly raises questions that beg for answers.

 Sontag repeats Shamia'a's protestations that her husband could not have misled her about what he was doing in Yemen. Then, Sontag lists information that completely undercuts the protestations. For example, Padilla must have been paid very well for an English teacher to have traveled as extensively as he did. Yet Muhammed Javed, the Florida man who helped convert Padilla to Islam, told The New York Times that when Padilla told him he was going to Egypt to teach English, he said, "I was baffled, thinking, 'You yourself don't speak proper English.'"

Debra J. Saunders

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