Civil libertarians have their knickers in a twist again about the American Al Qaeda, Jose Padilla... also known as Abdullah al Muhajir.

Padilla's story would be a joke if it weren't so serious: A guy turns to Islam in a Florida jail. He goes to Pakistan, meets with Abu Zubaydah and then travels around with the Al Qaeda chieftain learning how to handle explosives. All the while, he's dreaming up devilish plots against the people at home who have treated him so badly. One supposes these to include the cops, the girls and the drug dealers who ripped him off.

Even his name is a joke... Abdullah the immigrant. Do you think that when Abu Zubaydah gave him that name, he filled his subject in on the joke? Probably not.

So Abu thinks he's being cute in custody. He tells his captors a little about Jose, but not enough to let the Feds find him.

But the Feds do find him. They figure out who he is, and they swoop down on him.

Zubaydah probably doesn't know. There's no FNC where he is. He's locked up in a cell talking to the walls and his toothbrush and no one else.

So the Feds arrest Jose and throw him in the can as a material witness, hoping to hold him indefinitely. But a judge says you can't hold a material witness indefinitely, so they switch his status to enemy combatant — a status which cancels his rights as a citizen to avoid a military tribunal.

So now the civil libs are saying: Who gets the right to name an enemy combatant?

The fear here is that some crazed commander-in-chief will name his political enemies as enemy combatants, and the storm troops will come get us all. It's the run amok scenario that has their knickers in a twist.

Let me restore some calm...

This very unusual gambit is for real honest-to-God enemy combatants. If Jose wants to say he wasn't going to do any of the bombing Abu Zubaydah says he was, he can save it for a trial in the distant future when the war on terror is over and we have time to worry about the niceties of his situation.

In the meantime, he's got confederates out there and we should find them. Jose should cool his jets in that cell until the people protecting this country are certain he is not using the Constitution as a wall to hide behind while he shoots, bombs or poisons his fellow countrymen.

The rest of us are safe if he's locked up, and less safe if he is not.

That's My Word.

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