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.