Monday, December 04, 2006

Jose Padilla - "What does [the case] say about our country?"




In an article titled "Video Is a Window Into a Terror Suspect’s Isolation," the New York Times today reports that Jose Padilla's attorneys have obtained a videotape of Mr. Padilla being transported from his cell to the dentist to undergo a root canal.

Padilla is an American citizen was accused by then attorney General John Ashcroft of being involved in the detonation of a "dirty bomb" as well as a plot to blow up apartment buildings. However, as the article notes...

"Mr. Padilla’s status was abruptly changed to criminal defendant from enemy combatant last fall. At the time, the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the legality of his military detention — and thus the issue of the president’s authority to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him indefinitely without charges — when the Bush administration pre-empted its decision by filing criminal charges against Mr. Padilla.

Mr. Padilla was added as a defendant in a terrorism conspiracy case already under way in Miami. The strong public accusations made during his military detention — about the dirty bomb, Al Qaeda connections and supposed plans to set off natural gas explosions in apartment buildings — appear nowhere in the indictment against him. The indictment does not allege any specific violent plot against America."


Several months ago, Judge Marcia G. Cooke of United States District Court in Miami dismissed the most serious charge, conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country, "saying that it replicated accusations in the other counts and could lead to multiple punishments for a single crime."

Now that Mr. Padilla's public defenders have obtained the videotape, they allege that he is unfit to stand trial. According to the article, his lawyers:

"argue that he has been so damaged by his interrogations and prolonged isolation that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to assist in his own defense. His interrogations they say, included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of “truth serums.”

The article quotes former Navy JAG officer Philip D. Cave:

"There’s nothing comparable in terms of severity of confinement, in terms of how Padilla was held, especially considering that this was pretrial confinement."

The article also quotes Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Padilla in June and September, and who, in an affidavit filed by the defense on Friday, said that Padilla:

"lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense... It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation."

In another affidavit filed by the defense, one of his public defenders, Andrew Patel, said:

"Mr. Padilla remains unsure if I and the other attorneys working on his case are actually his attorneys or another component of the government’s interrogation scheme... During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body... The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel."

According the article, Orlando do Campo, another of Padilla's attorneys...

"...said that Mr. Padilla was not incommunicative, and that he expressed curiosity about what was going on in the world, liked to talk about sports and demonstrated particularly keen interest in the Chicago Bears. But the defense lawyers’ questions often echo the questions interrogators have asked Mr. Padilla, and when that happens, he gets jumpy and shuts down."

Here is a roundup of bloggers' comments on the revelations of this latest filing.

First Glenn Greenwald writes in this article that:

"As I have said many times, the most astounding and disturbing fact over the last five years -- and there is a very stiff competition for that title -- is that we have collectively really just sat by while the U.S. Government arrests and detains people, including U.S. citizens, and then imprisons them for years without any charges of any kind. What does it say about our country that not only does our Government do that, but that we don't really seem to mind much?"

Check out the whole article. Greenwald is one of the most insightful political commentators out there right now. While many lawyers have never even bothered to learn the details and implications of Jose Padilla case, he's been laboring for years, trying to hold the administration's feet to the fire for actions like this. I've even approached him about attending TLC as he's got the warrior part down pat.

Digby points out, via a link at TalkLeft, that

"I know that all the tough guys on the right will say that Padilla is just being a typical whining malcontent but I have a feeling that most of them would crumble into blubbering babies after five minutes in his position. This treatment is extremely inhumane. They basically blinded, deafened and then isolated him, essentially destroying his mind. There is no reason on earth to put those goggles and earphones on him to go to the dentist in the prison in South Carolina except to keep him from ever feeling like a normal human being, part of the natural world. It's sick."

And here is a link to University of Miami law professor Michael Froomkin's take on the case. In a nutshell, Froomkin summarizes the Government's response to this motion by the defense, alleging that the Government's case against Padilla should be dismissed because of "outrageous governmental conduct."

"We deny everything. And even if it's all true the remedy is to sue us, not dismiss this case."

You can view the Government's response to this defense motion here.

Sadly, when I asked another public defender about the Padilla case today, she didn't know who he was. It's not her fault. She is a hard working public defender who has very little free time. She depends on the media to tell her when important things are happening in this country. But, while the New York Times article is insightful, most people have no idea who Padilla is or, if they do, they remember him as the "dirty bomber" as if Ashcroft's allegations, which were never even charged, were somehow true.

But how can we expect average Americans to take note of Padilla's case- which has immensely dangerous implications for all of us- when people like Jules Crittendon, columnist for the Boston Herald, writes today that...

"I Think We're Supposed to Feel Bad About This... Padilla...[y]ou may recall he is the gentleman from Chicago who converted to Islam, hobnobbed with al Qaeda, and, our government has alleged, came back here with a plan to blow up apartment buildings, and now apparently lives in a state of virtual sensory deprivation while awaiting trial on charges of providing support to terrorists."

Once again, the government, via John Ashcroft, accused Padilla in the press of plotting to detonate dirty bombs and with blowing apartment buildings, but never charged Padilla with any such thing!

But accusation has become akin to conviction in post 9/11 America.

It is very likely that Padilla will never stand trial based on the fact that the evidence against him, which was obtained via torture, will either be suppressed because its gathering violated the Constitution or will be so unreliable that a jury won't buy it.

So the chances are great that an American citizen, who was convicted in the court of public opinion, but who may not be convicted in the real courts at all, will have to be cut loose, back onto the streets of his own country, convicted by the media but rightfully and lawfully acquitted in court.

We are left, sadly, with the system we ultimately deserve. I'll probably end up on a watch list for this last statement, but we truly have a choice: Exercise our First Amendment Rights now or risk losing more of the rest of the Bill of Rights later.

Do we go out with a bang or a whimper? If you view the Padilla case as a legitimate exercise of governmental power, you deserve the goverment you have right now. If not, we better all get off our asses and exercise our rights before they vanish, just like Padilla's did.

This case is beyond sickening and yet what do we hear from most of the institutions who are supposed to be informing us about this case's implications on the rest of our liberties? Crickets, followed immediately by Brittney Spears updates.

God help us... The precious rights our ancestors fought and died for, and thoughtfully preserved in the Bill of Rights, are being taken away, right before our eyes, and no one seems to even notice.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Apparently law prof Ann Althouse thinks this is no big deal. She observed that they could have prevented him from sending signals by blinking. Seriously.

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