The Case Of The Dirty Bomber

HOW A CHICAGO STREET GANGSTER ALLEGEDLY BECAME A SOLDIER FOR OSAMA BIN LADEN

It must have been one of Jose Padilla's proudest moments. He had spent his life chasing respect but rarely earning it--marking a dreary passage from a Chicago gang to juvenile detention to grownup prison to a Florida fast-food job and, finally, to a new life as a Muslim in the Middle East. And there he was, somewhere in Pakistan just six months after the Sept. 11 attacks, allegedly presenting an ominous proposal to Abu Zubaydah, Osama bin Laden's operations chief.

Padilla, 31, had prepped hard for his meeting, but his ambition outstripped his guile. Senior U.S. officials tell TIME that Padilla,...

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