Wednesday, November 23

The Padilla Thrilla

I have read numerous accounts, this morning, of the indictment of Jose Padilla (apparently, according to Padilla's lawyer, the pronunciation I exploited in the title of this post is correct: Padilla doesn't rhyme with Medea).

Not all -- but some -- of the press accounts note the suspicious timing of the indictment. The Bush administration has held Padilla (a US citizen) for three years without charging him with anything (until now). The Bush administration has claimed the right to do this because it has designated Padilla an "enemy combatant". Padilla's challenge to this status and what it means was heading toward the Supreme Court. Apparently, the Bush administration expected an unfavorable decision and made Padilla's case moot by indicting him and, however belatedly, beginning due process against him (the administration has not ruled out resurrecting Padilla's "enemy combatant" status should the trial or something else go awry).

While this case isn't the thrilla the title of this post indicates, it is amazing that there is a general lack of concern, much less alarmed outrage, with respect to the implications of Padilla's situation. Padilla is a US citizen whose constitutional rights have been vacated. By a mere statement of the President of the United States. If any citizen's rights can be vacated on the whim of the president -- even a trustworthy and principled president -- those rights are illusory. Padilla's lawyers (the fact that Padilla has representation is testament to persistence in the face of stonewalling by the administration) hope to maneuver the case, though for Padilla specifically, it is moot, to the Supreme Court. We should all hope they succeed and that the Court rules the way that Bush feared.

This is not about Padilla. We don't really know anything about Padilla (unless you call awareness of the government's shifting accusations against him 'knowing something') -- a situtation that exists by administration design. Even I am not cynical enough to think that Padilla is an innocent pawn, randomly unfortunate enough to get caught up in the administration's attempt to achieve control of the citizenry. However, the day we take the word of the government -- even a trustworthy and principled government -- that abiding by the Constitution is unwise and/or unnecessary, is the day the American experiment in Democracy failed.

2 comments:

Julie in VT said...

What Steve reminds us is something I've felt strongly about for some time now: this has nothing to do with Padilla. This has to do with every person who values the constitution and due process.

joe shikspack said...

What I'm wondering about now is whether the Supreme Court will allow this episode to go without comment/action by failing to take up the case. In years gone by, I can't imagine an American citizen rotting in a military brig for 3+ years on no authority beyond the President's word - even with Il-Busho in office it's hard to think that the (in)justice system has allowed this to spin out so long.

3 to 1 odds if the SC grants cert we'll hear whining about "activist judges" from the conservotwits.