Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The on-going tyranny and criminality of the Bush administration

It is extremely difficult for me to discuss the Jose Padilla case, partly because it is so criminal, disgusting, primitive and unAmerican. Three and a half years ago Padilla was arrested and publicly accused of being an agent of al Qaeda - by the Attorney General (Ashcroft) of the United State, no less - and of planning to enter the United States and build and explode a so-called dirty bomb.

Since that time, Jose Padilla (a U.S. Citizen, though that is legally irrelevant since the same Constitution and law applies to noncitizens in the U.S.) has been held in solitary confinement conditions equivalent to those of the worst of the worst convicted criminals currently kept in the horrible conditions of SuperMax. Only Jose has never been charged with any crime at all. No charges, no trial, no conviction. Legally, Jose Padilla is as innocent of criminal intent as the best of us, yet he has spent the time since he was arrested time in extreme solitary confinement. Jerilyn Merrit and Digby have weighed in with their disgust and descriptions, and then Glenn Greenwald pulled all this together. Here is some of what Glenn wrote:
"Digby says everything that needs to be said about how depraved this specific behavior is. And any decent human being can see that for themselves. It is as self-evident as anything can be. So I want to make a few additional observations about this revelation:

(1) We are only learning about what was done to Padilla because, after 3 1/2 years of being held without any charges, he is now in the criminal judicial system and the Government's conduct and its allegations against Padilla are both now being subjected to scrutiny (just like the pre-9/11 Founders intended and explicitly required).

But if the Bush administration had its way, Padilla would still be languishing in solitary confinement -- prohibited from any contact with the outside world, including lawyers -- and detained without any charges at all. Bush officials did not voluntarily indict him and transfer him to the judicial system because they suddenly woke up one day and realized that American citizens shouldn't be imprisoned for years and years without due process. To the contrary, they still believe they have the power to detain U.S. citizens in that manner.

They only brought charges against Padilla in November, 2005 -- and transferred him from his military brig to a federal prison -- because the Supreme Court was set to rule on the legality of their treatment of Padilla, something they were desperate to avoid. By indicting him and finally allowing him to contest the accusations in court, the administration was able to argue -- successfully -- that the Supreme Court should dismiss Padilla's case because the relief he was seeking (i.e., either be charged or released) was now granted and his claims were therefore "moot."

But the administration continues to argue that it has the power to detain U.S. citizens -- including those, like Padilla, detained not on a "battlefield," but on U.S. soil -- indefinitely and without any charges being brought. Nothing has changed in that regard.

(2) The Bush administration "justified" its treatment of Padilla through rank fear-mongering -- having John Aschroft flamboyantly brand him "the Dirty Bomber" and then leak to the press over the next two years that he wanted to blow up apartment buildings. But the indictment contained none of those allegations (because the "evidence" on which they were based was flimsy from the start and, independently, was unusable because it was obtained via torture). Instead, the Indictment merely recites the vaguest possible terrorism-related conspiracy accusations against Padilla.

Now that they are forced to defend their accusations in court, the Bush administration's case against Padilla has been revealed to be incredibly weak, as Dan Eggen's typically excellent article in The Washington Post last month detailed:

But now, nearly a year after his abrupt transfer into a regular criminal court, the Justice Department's prosecution of the former Chicago gang member is running into trouble.

A Republican-appointed federal judge in Miami has already dumped the most serious conspiracy count against Padilla, removing for now the possibility of a life sentence. The same judge has also disparaged the government's case as "light on facts," while defense lawyers have made detailed allegations that Padilla was illegally tortured, threatened and perhaps even drugged during his detention at a Navy brig in South Carolina. . . .

But some legal scholars and defense lawyers argue that the government's case is so fundamentally weak, and its legal options so limited, that Padilla could draw a relatively minor prison term or even be acquitted. The trial has already been postponed once, until January, and is almost certain to be delayed again.

It should go without saying (though I have no doubt that, for some, it does not) that whether Padilla is ultimately found guilty has absolutely no bearing on the disgraceful crime of detaining him with no charges for years and torturing him.

But the fact that the case against Padilla is so weak ought to cause any rational person to understand the dangers of vesting the power in the President to order people imprisoned forever without any real judicial process. Unfortunately for the U.S., the majority of the Military-Commissions-Act-approving 109th Congress was not composed of people who reason that way or who actually believe in the way America was designed to work.

(3) As Jeralyn Meritt said yesterday with profound understatement: "There should be a greater outcry over this." 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?"
Greenwald, Digby and Merrit all have a lot more to say. Go read them.

And if you aren't utterly disgusted at the behavior of the subhuman frightened children who populate our White House and Justice Department then you are not an American and have failed your civics course.

You could also find yourself subject to such criminal treatement.

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