Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Judge Orders Padilla's Day In Court

While I am no particular fan of Jose Padilla, I agree with the Federal court ruling that the government must charge Padilla or let him go. It is an imperative right for the accused to be able to defend themselves in court. Otherwise, any American, actually a terrorist or not, could be held forever without ever being able to defend themselves. This is a very dangerous road to travel down because the supposed security cannot outweigh the abrogation of our constitutional rights. As we have seen already, the Bush administration is willing to re-interpret the law to fit their will. Classifying an American citizen as an "enemy combatant" and holding them indefinitely can be broadened to such a scope to encompass millions of Americans. Civil rights activists could have been considered enemy combatants. Anti-abortion activists could be considered enemy combatants. Any person who disagrees with the government and is seen as a threat to the national peace could be considered an enemy combatant. The flood gates of totalitarianism would be opened and the washout would leave a Stalin like state.

If Padilla is guilty of trying to blow up apartment buildings using dirty bombs, then let a jury of his peers say so. If he is guilty, so be it. If he is innocent, so be it.

Bomb Plot Suspect Must Be Charged or Freed

By JACOB JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. - In a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration, a federal judge ruled the case of "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla is a matter for law enforcement — not the military — and ordered the government to charge him or let him go.

Padilla's more than 2 1/2 years in custody, most of it spent in a Navy brig, don't seem closer to an end, however, because Justice Department (news - web sites) spokesman John Nowacki said the government will appeal the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd in Spartanburg, S.C., ruled Monday that the government can not hold Padilla indefinitely as an "enemy combatant," a designation President Bush (news - web sites) gave him in 2002. The government views Padilla as a militant who planned attacks on the United States, including with a "dirty bomb" radiological device.

Floyd wrote in his 23-page opinion that to rule in favor of the government "would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country's constitutional tradition," it would be a "betrayal of this nation's commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and individual liberties."

Floyd, appointed by Bush in 2003, gave the administration 45 days to take action.

Padilla's attorney, Andy Patel, said his client is an American citizen who has the right to defend himself in court against charges or else be released.

"The real issue in this case is Mr. Padilla's right to have that jury," he said. "That's not just Mr. Padilla's right, that's every American citizen's right."

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, called Floyd's order a significant blow to the administration. "It's a genuine limitation on the president's belief that he can do what he wants in the war on terror," said Ratner, whose group represents scores of detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The administration has said Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, sought to blow up hotels and apartment buildings in the United States in addition to planning an attack with a radiological device.

Padilla was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in 2002 after returning from Pakistan. The federal government has said he received weapons and explosives training from members of al-Qaida.

(Full Story)


Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Overall, I'm with you- that is, there has to be a mechanism for the process to move as opposed to remaining stagnant.

On the other hand, does the Govt have to make public it's case, if indeed by doing so, they might endanger their intelligence efforts?

Dingo said...

That is a very tough call. I understand the need for secrecy in some situations is vital, but at the same time, the 6th amendment guarantees the right of a quick and public trial.

During the red scare of the 1950's, Russian intelligence intercepts fingered several traitors that were never prosecuted because the manner in which the information was gathered would have been compromised in a public trial. *as a side note, these intercepts also showed that McCarthy was only right on 2 or 3 of the hundreds of people he publicly accused.

Of course, the amendments are not absolute, and exceptions can and have been made in the past. This issue is for more brilliant minds than mine to figure out.

Boomr said...

There's a big difference between allowing the prisoner to have a court date and an attorney, and making the proceedings public. It's possible to preserve a person's rights while at the same time keeping the information out of the public's eye.

There are such things as courts that handle matters of national security, which conduct their proceedings in utmost secrecy. I'd be willing to be that there are a few dozen traitors in jails somewhere whose stories were never made public because of these types of courts. It may surprise everyone to learn that I'm all for this -- there are certain things that the government does (and needs to do) that should never be public knowledge. As long as there's a mechanism for representation of the accused, then all's well.

That said, the Jose Padilla case is so much in the public eye -- initially through the government's own release of information regarding his case -- that I don't think any proceeding involving him would hinder beyond repair our intelligence efforts in the war on terror. The administration released the information because it wanted public evidence that it was making strides in that war, and I would think a public trial would welcome.

Good for a Bush appointee to rule in such a way, showing great judicial independence.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Boomr, I think you got this one right, too.

Proceedings can be held behind closed doors.

Boomr said...

Wow, so much agreement, I don't know what to do. Of course, even the closed-door proceedings need to meet with minimum standards of due process and appellate review, but I have no problem with criminal matters involving sensitive national security issues being held outside of the public's purview.