Proponents of prosecuting alleged terrorists via our criminal justice system will point to the successful prosecutions of Richard Reid and the “Dirty Bomber” Jose Padilla as justification for this method over that of the military tribunal system.
With respect to Padilla, here is the dirty little secret they don't want to tell you:
He was not convicted of the most important plot we had against him — the conspiracy with KSM, Binyam Mohammed, and others to carry out a second wave of post-9/11 attacks inside the United States. He was never indicted on that plot because he could not be convicted applying civilian due process standards.
Padilla refused to give information to the FBI, using its regular protocols. It was only when he was designated as an enemy combatant and transferred to military custody (no lawyer involved in interrogations, no Miranda, no case to plea bargain) that he began to give up valuable information. None of those confessions could be admitted under the standards applicable in civilian courts.
Moreover, we knew a lot of other information about him from the interrogations of other Qaeda detainees, like KSM, by the CIA. But that information, too, could not be admitted under civilian court rules unless we were willing to give the sources immunity from prosecution. Since we were never going to immunize the likes of KSM, that was never going to happen.
By the way, you’ll be pleased to know that in 17 years from this point, Padilla will walk as a free man in this country as opposed to the life sentence he would’ve received had he been convicted of his major activity.