The Feds portrayed Jose Padilla–arrested at Chicago O’Hare Airport in 2002 on a tip from captured al Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah–as a low-ranking advance man. It later came out that he was here to plan two different attacks, one involving a dirty bomb and a second in which he was to rent apartments around Chicago and use their gas lines to blow them up. Now it turns out he may have been more than an advance man:

Jose Padilla was not just a Chicago street gang stooge as some in law enforcement portrayed him at the time of his arrest. Federal authorities say evidence now shows that Padilla had had risen in Al Qaeda’s ranks to have personal relationships with the top planners of the September 11th attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Padilla has told authorities that his direct Al Qaeda supervisor was Ammar al-Baluchi who obtained flight simulators that the 9/11 hijackers used in training. According to Padilla, Baluchi was the right-hand man of Khalid Sheihk Mohammed—considered the architect of the 9/11 attacks.

In documents filed during the recent death penalty hearing for Al Qaeda terrorist Zacharias Moussaoui, Moussaoui described Baluci as a “key travel and financial facilitator for the Sept. 11 hijackers.”

Padilla’s connection to Al Qaeda provided his marching orders as well. Federal agents say Padilla has told them that Baluchi gave him $10,000 cash before flying from the Middle East to O’Hare, provided travel documents, gave him a U.S. cell phone and an email address to notify Al Qaeda operatives of his arrival in Chicago.

But authorities say Padilla’s connection to the upper crust of Al Qaeda is best found in his activities with three of the organization’s top terrorists. The night before leaving for Chicago they threw him a bon voyage dinner — hosted by the men considered to be the 9/11 masterminds.

Padilla was once dubbed an enemy combatant and thrown in a military brig. But he has since been transferred for trial in civilian courts and is in federal lock-up in Miami.