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The Justice Department announced terrorism charges Thursday against two men accused of recruiting designated enemy combatant Jose Padilla to train as a terrorist agent. The 10-count indictment charges Adham Amin Hassoun, a South Florida computer programmer and friend of Padilla’s, and Mohamed Hesham Youssef, who is currently serving a prison sentence in Egypt, with conspiring to fund terrorist organizations and recruit individuals to engage in terrorist acts. Padilla, an alleged member of al Qaeda who the government says was planning attacks in the United States, was one of the men’s alleged recruits. He was not named in the indictment, which was handed up by a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida. Instead, Padilla was designated as Unindicted Co-conspirator No. 2, two Justice Department officials say. At a Justice Department press conference Thursday, Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to identify Padilla as the alleged co-conspirator. Ashcroft confirmed, however, that the individual is a U.S. citizen and that he returned to the United States from the Middle East in May 2002. Padilla, an American citizen, was arrested May 8, 2002, at O’Hare International Airport. DOJ officials decline to comment on the implications of Padilla’s involvement in the conspiracy case against Hassoun and Youssef. By drawing Padilla into an ongoing criminal case, the administration could be setting the stage to end his more than two-year detention by the U.S. military as an enemy combatant, either by charging him in federal court or striking a plea bargain. Barry Boss, a partner at D.C.’s Cozen O’Connor and a former assistant federal public defender, says that, in general, unindicted co-conspirators raise a “red flag” for defense lawyers because they often turn up as cooperating witnesses. Hassoun’s attorney, Fred Haddad, says he believes that the government intends to use Padilla as a witness against Hassoun. “The way the government drafts this, this guy is a witness. They don’t have unidentified co-conspirators unless they are going to be witnesses or they’re out of reach in another country,” Haddad says. Other defense lawyers suggest that identifying Padilla in the indictment might be a tactic to justify his continued detention without charges. Donna Newman, Padilla’s New York lawyer, says she hasn’t been contacted by the government about Padilla’s cooperation in the case. The Supreme Court’s three recent terror-related rulings complicate Padilla’s case for the U.S. government. Padilla’s challenge to his military detention was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, sending the case back for further proceedings. However, rulings in the related cases of U.S. citizen Yaser Esam Hamdi and detainees held at Guant�namo Bay, Cuba, which called for some sort of due process extended to military detainees, suggest that the government is on shaky ground if it continues to hold Padilla without charges. The Miami Daily Business Review reported in July 2004 that the Justice Department was considering charging Padilla in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Any charges against Padilla are unlikely to include the most serious allegations against him: that he plotted to detonate a nuclear device in a U.S. city or blow up apartment buildings. Hassoun, who admits that he helped raise money for Padilla’s travel to Egypt in 1998, has been in U.S. custody on immigration and gun charges since 2002. Ashcroft said the Justice Department will seek Youssef’s extradition from Egypt to stand trial in the United States. According to the indictment, Hassoun and Youssef began plotting to “prepare” Padilla for jihad in 1996, and in 1997 Hassoun allegedly asked Padilla whether he was “ready” for jihad. Padilla traveled from Miami to Cairo in 1998, where he met with Youssef. The indictment further states that Padilla traveled to an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2000. Ashcroft and other department officials hailed the indictment — built in large part on wiretap evidence gathered in foreign intelligence investigations — as a tribute to the success of the USA Patriot Act. Prior to the Patriot Act, foreign intelligence information could not easily be shared with law enforcement agents and prosecutors. “Because the ‘wall’ that restricted such information sharing in the past has been torn down since September 11, prosecutors were able to piece together the full scope of the alleged violent jihad conspiracy and present these charges in a court of law,” Justice Department Criminal Division Chief Christopher Wray said in a statement. Dan Christensen, a staff writer with the Miami Daily Business Review , contributed to this report.

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