Here is a key piece of evidence in the case against American-born Jose Padilla, whose federal trial begins Monday in Miami — an Al Qaeda job application form. (Click here to read an English translation of the Al Qaeda application, as well as the original Arabic.)
The application — obtained by ABC News' Law & Justice Unit — provides a window into a highly sophisticated organization with a corporate structure that resembles that of large American companies.
"It's a membership application — just the way you or I would fill out an application for a credit card company,'' said Jack Cloonan, former head of the FBI's Osama bin Laden squad in New York and now an ABC News consultant, who reviewed the document. "They're no different.''
The document's authenticity was confirmed to ABC News' Law & Justice Unit by the U.S. attorney's office in Miami, where Padilla is being prosecuted. The government claims Padilla's signature on the application is authentic.
Padilla, 36, and two other men who will stand trial with him are accused of being part of a North American support cell for Islamic extremists overseas. All three have pleaded not guilty, and all three face life in prison if convicted.
These charges pale in comparison to the original allegations made by the government against Padilla when he was apprehended in Chicago in the summer of 2002 — that he had plotted to explode a dirty bomb inside the United States. However, experts tell ABC News that the application — along with wiretaps obtained by the government — may be compelling enough evidence to convict him on the far narrower charges of conspiracy to support terrorism.
Padilla is an American of Puerto Rican descent and a former Chicago gang member who became a Muslim while in a U.S. prison.
He is alleged to have filled out the application in July 2000 to attend an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. On the application, which was found in a safe house in Afghanistan along with hundreds of other documents, Padilla uses his Muslim name, Abu Abdallah Al Muhajir.
His arrest was hailed as an early and key "step forward'' in the war on terrorism by then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who had interrupted a trip in Russia to announce Padilla's apprehension.
Defense attorneys are expected to challenge the authenticity of the application and whether Padilla actually filled it out himself. A CIA agent is expected to testify in disguise to the document's authenticity and how it was found.
The application begins with all the routine questions one would expect on a job or loan application — date of birth, professional skills, languages, a contact in case of emergency, and family background.
It is labeled "Top Secret'' and lists the headings "The Military Administration — Personnel Branch."
Under a section called "Security Status," the applicant is asked: "How is the security status in your country?" and "Can you return to your country?"
Padilla allegedly checked the response: "Yes, With No Problems."
The application requests information on military service, and inquires about rank, specialty and whether the applicant has experience on the "battle front." The form also inquires about the applicant's health status, including vision, previous political affiliations, religious background, and professional references.
Also notable: many of the questions on Padilla's alleged application were left unanswered.