|US citizen Jose Padilla, 36, is accused of being part of a North American terror support cell.|
Officials missing a video of Padilla interrogation
MIAMI -- A videotape showing Pentagon officials' final interrogation of Al Qaeda suspect Jose Padilla is missing, raising questions about whether federal prosecutors have lost other recordings and evidence in the case.
The tape is classified, but Padilla's lawyers said they believe something happened during that interrogation that could explain why Padilla does not trust them and suspects they are government agents.
Anthony Natale, one of the lawyers , said in court papers that the March 2, 2004, interrogation at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., could contain information the government conveyed to Padilla that "directly impacts upon his relationship with his attorneys."
Prosecutors and the Pentagon have said they cannot find the tape despite an intensive search.
Authorities made 88 video recordings of Padilla being interrogated during the 3 1/2 years he was held at the brig as an "enemy combatant," officials said.
Eighty-seven tapes have been given to the defense, leaving only the last session unaccounted for.
"I don't know what happened to it," Pentagon lawyer James Schmidli said during a recent court hearing.
US District Judge Marcia Cooke was incredulous that anything connected to such a high-profile defendant could be lost.
"Do you understand how it might be difficult for me to understand that a tape related to this particular individual just got mislaid?" Cooke told prosecutors at a hearing last month.
Padilla, a 36-year-old US citizen, is scheduled to stand trial April 16 with two co defendants on charges of being part of a North American terror support cell.
When he was arrested in 2002, Padilla was initially accused of mounting an Al Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States, but the criminal case does not include those allegations.
Padilla's lawyers sought the brig tapes, medical records, and other details about his incarceration to back up assertions that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his long isolation and repeated interrogations.
The judge ruled Feb. 28 that Padilla is competent to stand trial.
Padilla's lawyers have also accused the Bush administration of mistreating and torturing Padilla at the brig, before he was transferred to civilian custody.
Justice Department and Pentagon officials have denied those allegations.