August 16th, 2007

Poor Padilla


photo credit: IMPEACH

CNN has a story about José Padilla’s conviction in court today. Padilla was labeled an “enemy combatant” by President Bush and detained by the military—without charges, a laywer, or any item of due process once guaranteed to all American citizens by Habeas Corpus.

The jury today found Mr. Padilla guilty of conspiracy to support Islamic terrorism overseas. The CNN article, however, describes an interesting twist in the jury’s decision:

“…neither were jurors told that Padilla was held in a Navy brig for 3½ years without charges before his indictment in the Miami case.”

Hmmm, so let’s see. The government assumes supreme authority (once reserved only for dictatorships of any flavor) to deny fundamental liberties (the bedrock of any Republican government) to a citizen it deems an “enemy combatant”, and then neglects to inform the jury about this crucial piece of information. Must have slipped their mind, right?

That’s right: our government can lock you up and throw away the key whenever our Supreme Executive labels you with those two words. They’ve done this to Padilla for several years. Who’s next?

One thing must be emphasized for all lovers of liberty: the powers now being assumed by (not delegated to) the executive branch of our government are those powers that dictators and despots of old have always grabbed for as they prepared to unleash their carnage and tyranny both at home and abroad.

Our Republic has crumbled into a democratic tyranny of the majority—a body politic greatly feared by our Founding Fathers. For it is in the tyranny of the majority that the rule of law and individual liberty is cast aside, all too often in the name of so-called security.

So yes, poor Padilla. Despite any crime he may have committed, he was and is still entitled those those freedoms vouchsafed in the founding documents of this great nation.

10 Responses to “Poor Padilla”

  1. Dan
    August 16, 2007 at 1:25 pm #

    eh, he will be okay. It will be in the appeals process that his mistreatment will come to light. The government will be forced to reveal what they did to him, or accept an overturning of this case. I wonder which they will choose….

  2. August 17, 2007 at 8:37 am #

    I’d hate to have 3-1/2 years of my life tossed away with “eh, she’ll be okay.” . . . .

  3. Connor
    August 17, 2007 at 8:41 am #

    Mother,

    Indeed. Pile on top of that the conditions in which he was subjected to live during that time:

    According to court papers filed by Padilla’s lawyers, for the first two years of his confinement, Padilla was held in total isolation. He heard no voice except his interrogator’s. His 9-by-7 foot cell had nothing in it: no window even to the corridor, no clock or watch to orient him in time.

    Padilla’s meals were delivered through a slot in the door. He was either in bright light for days on end or in total darkness. He had no mattress or pillow on his steel pallet; loud noises interrupted his attempts to sleep.

    Sometimes it was very cold, sometimes hot. He had nothing to read or to look at. Even a mirror was taken away. When he was transported, he was blindfolded and his ears were covered with headphones to screen out all sound. In short, Padilla experienced total sensory deprivation.

    During length interrogations, his lawyers allege, Padilla was forced to sit or stand for long periods in stress positions. They say he was hooded and threatened with death. The isolation was so extreme that, according to court papers, even military personnel at the prison expressed great concern about Padilla’s mental status.

    Uncle Sam’s response?

    The government maintains that whatever happened to Padilla during his detention is irrelevant, since no information obtained during that time is being used in the criminal case against him.

    “Irrelevant,” says the government. Or, in Dan’s dismissive words, “eh, he’ll be okay”.

  4. Dan
    August 17, 2007 at 8:50 am #

    woah, hold on Connor. I’ve been detailing Padilla’s case on my blog far longer than you have. I believe this is your first post about him. My latest post on his conviction is called a travesty of justice. Please don’t think I’m being dismissive of this conviction. In my research on this case, I’ve found that the defense didn’t do much to defend him because the judge did not allow his experiences in incarceration to be presented to the jurors. I say “eh he will be okay” because during the appeals process, the ways in which he was abused will definitely come to light. This conviction will be overturned. Based on what he has been through to this point, what he has to go through now is like being on cloud nine in comparison. That’s why I said, “eh he will be okay.” The government may claim whatever they want about how “irrelevant” his incarceration happened to be, but they will not be able to convince an appellate court on that matter.

  5. Connor
    August 17, 2007 at 8:56 am #

    Dan,

    Thanks for the clarification, and I’m glad to hear that you’re not so dismissive of his treatment. Still, those words seem to condone past behavior based on future results. That may not have been your intent, but that’s how I read them.

    Yes, Padilla’s treatment should be brought to light. Yes, the government should apologize and make retribution (and sadly, the only way they can do that is by exonerating him and giving him taxpayer’s money). Yes, the government should use this precedent to publicly state that no other “enemy combatants” will be denied Habeas Corpus.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

  6. August 17, 2007 at 12:24 pm #

    A forensic psychiatrist who examined Padilla had this to say:

    DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: What happened at the brig was essentially the destruction of a human being’s mind. That’s what happened at the brig. His personality was deconstructed and reformed.

    The entire interview with Dr. Hegarty can be found on Democracy now at:

    http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/16/1416242

  7. Scott
    August 17, 2007 at 3:15 pm #

    I’m having difficulty comprehending how Mr. Padilla’s 3½-year stint in the brig without charges impacts a jury’s decision on whether he committed the crimes of which he was convicted or not. Perhaps an injustice has occurred. If so, legal remedies should be sought. But the post-crime injustice is simply not relevant to the determination of whether the crimes were, in fact, committed. The executive branch’s perceived erroneous actions should not give a criminal a “Get out of jail free” card.

  8. Connor
    August 17, 2007 at 3:36 pm #

    Scott,

    An analysis of the events surrounding José Padilla’s incarceration will reveal that the government has changed its accusations of what exactly his crime was, and obtained it by very questionable methods. Two words might help you in your study of the issue: dirty bomb.

    Let’s analyze this in a different example. Suppose I am arrested on charges of robbing a bank, yet those charges are later changed to say that I was helping the robbers of the bank. This, the government claims, was discovered because some of my fingerprints were found on a form at a teller’s desk. During the time I awaited trial (after three and a half years when no such option was afforded me) I was mercilessly beaten, tortured, spit upon, neglected, and starved.

    Should not any of those factors weigh into the case itself? Can the government act as a tyrannical bully and have such actions not affect the verdict in the slightest? I realize that there are other methods and avenues for recourse, but certainly the treatment, conditions, and legal protection (or lack thereof) administered to the detainee would have an impact on the government’s claims of my involvement in said robbery.

    How can one trust the prosecution at all when the charges were changed and obtained originally through highly questionable methods. How can such trust exist when the detainee’s rights were thrown to the wind? How can the jury trust the facts provided them when such facts omit crucial details about his case?

    Yes, an injustice has occurred. The fact that it was not brought up in his trial saddens me, yet I hope that his mother holds true to her statement when she told reporters that there would be an appeal. Habeas Corpus hangs on a thread, and the precedent our government is trying to establish with this case should scare every liberty-loving American.

  9. August 20, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    Thanks to the Bush administration and Congress, the Military Commissions Act that became law last October makes it legal to do to anyone what they did to Padilla. It eliminates the right of habeas corpus and legalizes torture for anyone the government decides to label an enemy combatant. They followed that up recently with FISA amendments that negate the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches. Warrantless surveillance is now legal. The US government is turning into a banana republic.

  10. Connor
    January 22, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    Padilla was sentenced today to 17 years:

    Jose Padilla, once accused of plotting with al Qaeda to blow up a radioactive “dirty bomb,” was sentenced Tuesday to 17 years and four months on terrorism conspiracy charges that don’t mention those initial allegations.

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