Had Padilla been charged and tried back in the summer of 2002, rather than touted as some Bond villain—the Prince of Radiological Dispersion—his case would have stood for a simple legal proposition: that if you are a terrorist, a supporter of terrorism, or a would-be terrorist, the government will hunt you down and punish you. Had the government waited, tested its facts, kept expectations low, then delivered a series of convictions of even small-time al-Qaida foot soldiers, we in this country would feel safer and we would doubtless be safer. Instead Padilla, like Hamdi, was used as fodder for big speeches. They became the justification for Bush's position that some people are so evil that the law does not deter them, that new legal systems must be invented—new systems that bear a striking resemblance to those discredited around the time of Torquemada.
Torquemada, now there was a conservative's conservative.