What happended
Jose Padilla this week received a 17-year sentence for conspiring to help terrorists abroad. The term for Padilla—an American Muslim convert once accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the U.S.—was lighter than federal sentencing guidelines called for, and came as a setback to prosecutors, who wanted him put away for life. (The New York Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
This punishment is “both measured and fair,” said The Miami Herald in an editorial (free registration). Padilla and his co-defendants deserved to pay for trying to help others commit “violent jihad,” but they “failed to reach the level of a real plot.” U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke deserves to be commended for setting aside the “over-hyped” original charges that the government used to justify holding Padilla under “unusually harsh conditions”—and sticking to an “impartial and fair” assessment of the facts.

Judging by the facts, it sure looks like Padilla got off easy, said Rick Moran in the American Thinker blog. “There’s plenty of evidence” that he and his co-conspirators “wanted to kill people,” and Padilla was undeniably “an American citizen who chose sides in a war where the enemy seeks to destroy us.” If nothing else, this case shows “why it is not a good idea to try these cases” in civilian courts.

“It's odd that the liberal media would dismiss Padilla's conviction and sentencing as a defeat for the Bush administration,” said James Taranto in The Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web blog. Why not “play it up as a success of the law-enforcement approach to terrorism”? The New York Times and other newspapers delighted in calling Padilla an “ex-dirty bomb suspect,” and made little of the fact that he sent recruits, money, and supplies to Islamic extremists, including al Qaida. “

This judge is no pushover, said The Phidelphia Inquirer in an editorial. Judge Cook, whom President Bush nominated to the bench in 2003, “demonstrated her independence and common sense” by rejecting a life sentence and departing from sentencing guidelines, but 17 years is no “wrist slap.” By simply upholding the law, Cooke underscored “the need for the government to rein in questionable tactics used to fight terrorists.”