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Intelligence, Not Prosecution, Is U.S. First Priority With Padilla

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

NEW DELHI, India, June 11, 2002 – The United States is more interested in extracting intelligence information than in prosecuting Jose Padilla, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.

Rumsfeld was speaking at a press conference in Doha, Qatar, during a brief stop in that Persian Gulf nation before arriving here.

Padilla, a U.S. citizen also known as Abdullah al Mujahir, was captured May 8 when he flew into Chicago's O'Hare International Airport from Pakistan. The Justice Department transferred him June 10 to DoD custody. He's being held in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.

"Our interest, really, in this case, is not law enforcement. It is not punishment," Rumsfeld said. "Because he was a terrorist or working with the terrorists, our interest at the moment is to try to find out everything he knows so hopefully we can stop other terrorist acts."

The secretary described a recent situation in which intelligence information collected in Kandahar, Afghanistan, prevented three separate attacks in Singapore.

Rumsfeld said countries need to decide what their priorities are regarding terrorists.

"If someone had said when we found that information or that person (in Kandahar), 'Well, now, let's arrest the person and let's start the process of punishing that person for having done what he did,' we never would have gotten that information, and people would have died," he explained.

Rumsfeld said he believes the American people understand why it's important to deal with Padilla properly. He said responsible government officials have an obligation to find out "what in the world" Padilla knows to protect American citizens, allies and troops serving overseas.

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