MIAMI -- A key piece of evidence in the case against Brooklyn-born Jose Padilla, an alleged terrorism operative, came from an Afghan man who told the CIA he found it in an Al Qaeda safehouse, according to new court filings.
The man, unknown to the CIA at the time, drove up to the agency's installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in a pickup truck containing "stacks of papers and other office materials" found in the house occupied by a group of Arabs, according to a CIA document newly filed in federal court.
It was common knowledge, the man said, "that the Arabs residing in this home/office, as with many other similar sites in the city of Kandahar, had been affiliated with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden," according to the CIA description of the December 2001 meeting.
The Arabs fled the house just before the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, he said.
Among the Arabic documents was a blue binder containing dozens of forms that US officials say were essentially applications for Al Qaeda terrorism training camps. One of those forms was filled out and signed by Abu Abdullah al Mujahir, one of the aliases used by Padilla, according to federal prosecutors.
While the existence of the "mujahedeen data form" has long been public, how it wound up in US hands has never previously been disclosed.
The document was filed last week, before the scheduled April 16 trial of Padilla and two co- defendants on charges they were part of a North American support cell for Islamic extremist groups worldwide.
Padilla, a 36-year-old US citizen, was held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant once suspected of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" inside the United States. He was added in November 2005 to the Miami terrorism support case, which does not mention an Al Qaeda "dirty bomb" plot.
The form, which prosecutors say contains Padilla's fingerprints, is the government's strongest piece of physical evidence. The CIA has asked that the officer who accepted it from the Afghan man be permitted to testify in disguise.
Padilla converted to Islam after moving to Florida from Chicago, and moved in 1998 to Egypt.