[JURIST] US Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that he has started a formal inquiry into the Justice Department's handling of the Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] case. Padilla, a US citizen, had been held without charge for over three years as an enemy combatant on suspicion that he had been planning to explode a "dirty bomb". Padilla was charged [JURIST report] on Nov. 22 with being part of a North American al Qaeda terror cell. Specter has asked the Justice Department to explain why Padilla was indicted on different charges than those which were used to justify his detention as an enemy combatant. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in September ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] that Padilla could be detained without charges indefinitely; that ruling had been appealed [PDF cert. petition; JURIST report] to the US Supreme Court and the Court was deciding whether to take the case when Padilla was indicted. Specter has not yet decided whether to hold a judiciary committee hearing on the matter. Reuters has more.