Leftwing Law Professors Who (Like the New York Times) Don't Understand Who the Enemy Is · 18 August 2007

By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMag.com On its front page today, the New York Times features an interesting "news analysis" on the Jose Padilla verdict. But it's interesting less for what it says about the verdict than what it says about certain law professors. For example, Robert Chesney, a law professor at Wake Forest University, laments that because Padilla was convicted on charges of terrorist conspiracy, "[t]here is no need to show any particular violent crime." Equally troubling for Chesney is that the prosecution did not have to "specify the particular means used to carry out the crime." But it's unclear why this should be cause for concern. Padilla was a member of a radical Islamic group that advocated terrorist violence in the name of jihad. He traveled for training to terrorist camps. And he apparently provided support, operational and financial, to jihadists in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Bosnia. Hence he was convicted of a conspiracy to commit terrorism overseas. The fact that he did not carry out a violent crime himself seems wildly immaterial, since the whole point is to prevent him and others like him from doing so. Following Professor Chesney's standards for conviction, we would have had to wait until Padilla actually carried out an act of terrorism -- possibly in the United States -- before considering him fit for trial. I doubt very much that most Americans would be sympathetic to the idea. Yet Professor Chesney appears downright reasonable next to his fellow law professor Peter Margulies of Roger Williams University. Margulies offers the following objection to the conviction: "It is a pretty big leap between a mere indication of desire to attend a camp and a crystallized desire to kill, maim and kidnap." This might be true if Padilla were attending, say, summer camp. But of course the camp in question is an al-Qaeda affiliated training camp in Afghanistan, where recruits are taught to kill unbelievers. Indeed, this is a central theme of the al-Qaeda training manual, around which the camps are organized, and which states that Islamic governments can "never be established without bomb or rifle," and that "Islam does not coincide or make truce with unbelief, but rather confronts it." That attending these camps is a good indication of an individual's "desire to kill and main" should be obvious. But it is one of the more unfortunate features of the academic world that matters obvious to most of us fail to find purchase.