The Implications of the Foiled "Dirty Bomb" Plot

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A U.S. citizen with links to al Qaeda was planning to build and detonate a so-called "dirty bomb," Attorney General John Ashcroft announced today.

The suspect, Abdullah Al Muhajir, was arrested a month ago and is now being treated as an "enemy combatant," which means he is now under the jurisdiction of the Defense Department and has fewer rights than a regular criminal suspect.

The foiled plot is troubling in that it shows at least part of what al Qaeda is planning on doing next. It also shows that some al Qaeda members are not foreigners, but U.S. citizens — and that not all are of Middle Eastern descent. Al Muhajir's original name was Jose Padilla, and he is Hispanic, not Arabic.

On the human rights front, some are criticizing the government's decision to take one of its citizens out of the criminal justice system and treat him essentially like a prisoner of war. On the intelligence front, today's announcement was remarkable because authorities learned of the alleged plot from through interrogating an al Qaeda leader currently in U.S. custody.

This hour, we look at the implications of today's announcement for American security and for civil rights.


Rohan Gunatratna, research associate at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrew's University in ScotlandRobert Drogin, intelligence reporter for the LA Times

This program aired on June 10, 2002.


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