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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Shame shame shame

An American citizen is arrested at an airport and accused with serious crimes. He is held in solitary confinement for years without formal charges or access to an attorney. Three and a half years later he is finally charged with a crime, but ones completely different from the reason for the arrest. The young American claims that he has been kept in dark rooms and tortured. The authorities admit they stood on his bare feet in combat boot while placing shackles on him. His attorneys claim he has been so physically and mentally abused that he is unable to assist them in his defense, but the trial will proceed anyway. Would we not rise up in righteous indignation as a nation against the country perpetrating such a blatant miscarriage of justice? Would we not label the government that would do such a thing as Totalitarian, Fascist, Communist, or Nazi?
Why we would cut off trade relations, reduce foreign aide, stir up public opinion demanding the young man's release. The news media would be in a lather like they were when a young American was caned in Singapore.


This is from the New York Times today:

The Jose Padilla Trial
Published: March 1, 2007
There were so many reasons to be appalled by President Bush’s decision to detain people illegally and subject them to mental and physical abuse. The unfolding case of Jose Padilla reminds us of one of the most important: mistreating a prisoner makes it hard, if not impossible, for a real court to judge whether he has committed real crimes.
Mr. Padilla is a former Chicago gang member whose arrest in 2002 was touted by the Bush administration as the disruption of a high-level plot by Al Qaeda to set off a “dirty bomb” in the United States. Mr. Padilla was held without charge for three years and eight months in a Navy brig, his windows blackened, his every move watched. Then, rather than defend its actions before the Supreme Court, the White House declared a year ago that Mr. Padilla was no longer an illegal combatant, transferred him to civilian custody and filed conspiracy charges that have nothing to do with dirty bombs.
Yesterday, Judge Marcia Cooke of the Federal District Court in Miami ruled against Mr. Padilla’s defense lawyers, who argued that his abusive confinement was so traumatic that he could not assist them in a trial. They had wanted to send Mr. Padilla to a hospital for treatment first.
That still leaves the far bigger question of whether Mr. Padilla was tortured, as he has claimed. For there to be a trial, Judge Cooke will have to rule that Mr. Padilla was not tortured, and she made a point of saying yesterday that her ruling on his competence was not a judgment on the torture claim.
At one point in the mental competency hearing, a prosecutor wanted to introduce what he said was a Qaeda manual instructing captured operatives to claim torture even if none had occurred. Judge Cooke refused, pointing out that there was no evidence that Mr. Padilla had ever heard of the manual, much less studied it. The government has yet to show evidence that Mr. Padilla was even a member of Al Qaeda.
The government’s arguments at the hearing sounded ridiculous and shameful. Prosecutors said Mr. Padilla always seemed fine to his jailers, but it was his jailers who did things like standing on his bare feet with boots so they could shackle him. The brig psychologist testified that he had spoken to Mr. Padilla only twice, once when he was first detained, and two years later — through a slit in his cell door.
When a psychologist testified for the defense that Mr. Padilla was “an anxiety-ridden, broken individual,” the prosecution said her tests were invalid — because the jailers had kept Mr. Padilla handcuffed throughout.
We will probably never know if Mr. Padilla was a would-be terrorist. So far, this trial has been a reminder of how Mr. Bush’s policy on prisoners has compromised the judicial process. And it has confirmed the world’s suspicions of the United States’ stooping to the very behavior it once stood against.

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