The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsboxall lead with the conviction of Jose Padilla on terrorism conspiracy charges. Everyone says the jury's verdict was a victory for the White House, which had been roundly criticized for the way Padilla, a U.S. citizen who had been designated an "enemy combatant," was held for more than three years in almost total isolation. Administration officials were clearly pleased, but critics were quick to point out that the conviction undermines the White House's often-repeated view that criminal courts are not equipped to deal with terrorists. Padilla was charged with two other men, who were also found guilty, and they could all be sentenced to life imprisonment.
USA Todayleads with a look at the large number of Iraq's doctors and nurses that have left the country since the invasion, which is making it difficult to staff the medical clinics built by the U.S. government. And they're not the only ones. According to an Oxfam report, 40 percent of Iraq's professionals have escaped the country.
The WSJ emphasizes that each side on the warrantless eavesdropping debate could claim their views were redeemed by Padilla's conviction because wiretapped calls were an integral part of the prosecution's case, but they were carried out under court supervision.
Padilla was arrested in 2002 allegedly for planning a "dirty bomb" attack, a charge that was never made at the trial. After spending more than three years in a Navy brig, where some contend he was tortured, the government transferred Padilla to civilian custody so he could be tried. Padilla's lawyers argued their client was unfit to stand trial because the abuse and torture he faced made him unable to assist in his own defense.
After a three-month trial, jurors came to a decision in a little more than a day. The NYT talks to a juror who says she had pretty much made up her mind before deliberations began. Everyone says the most damning evidence against Padilla was a "mujahideen data form" that was described as an application to join an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan. The form had Padilla's fingerprints, but lawyers questioned its authenticity and said he could have handled the document while under military custody.
Overall, the Post is the most outwardly skeptical of the evidence presented in the case, describing it as "relatively thin" on charges that Padilla intended to commit murder overseas and pointing out that the wiretapped calls presented to the jury "offered few specific clues of his intentions." Defense lawyers accused the prosecution of employing "scare tactics" and criticized the decision to play an interview with Osama Bin Laden, which they said was only used so jurors would think of Sept. 11. The LAT says Padilla's mother vowed her son would appeal. Lawyers for the two other men also promised to appeal saying that if it weren't for Padilla their clients would have been acquitted.
The NYT, LAT, and WP front large pictures of the devastation left by the powerful earthquake that hit Peru on Wednesday and killed at least 437 people, a number that is likely to increase as recovery efforts continue. The 8.0-magnitude earthquake has displaced at least 17,000 people, many of whom were left without power and other basic services. Although earthquakes in Peru are relatively common, this one was widely seen as one of the most devastating in the country's history.
In other tragic news, the LAT and USAT reefer late-breaking news that three rescue workers were killed as they attempted to reach the six men trapped in a Utah mine. All rescue efforts have now stopped, and it is unclear whether they will continue.
The WP fronts, the WSJ goes high with, and the NYT reefers, the release of notes taken by FBI Director Robert Mueller that detail how then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was "barely articulate," "feeble," and "clearly stressed" soon after he received a visit from several top administration officials in his hospital room in 2004. The White House officials, including Alberto Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time, tried to get Ashcroft to approve an extension of the warrantless wiretapping program. The notes contradict testimony given by Gonzales, who assured lawmakers that Ashcroft was "lucid" during the now-infamous hospital visit.
On Page One, the NYT tries to figure out how much time Rudolph Giuliani actually spent at ground zero. When criticized for failing to properly protect the health of rescue workers, Giuliani frequently talks about how he spent a lot of time in the area as well and could face many of the same risks. There is no record of the amount of time the former mayor spent at the site during "the chaotic six days after the attack." But, after examining the mayor's archives, the NYT says Giuliani spent 29 hours at ground zero from Sept. 17 to Dec. 16, 2001, which is obviously a lot less time than many of the rescue workers.