Saturday, August 18, 2007

very muddy water

Jose Padilla has been found guilty -- not of plotting to set off a dirty bomb, but for conspiracy as part of a 'terror cell'. My only challenge with this set of verdicts is that we have no way of knowing. Padilla has been so rough-handled in his almost four years of detention that how can we know he was even capable of defending himself after his detention and interrogation? Stephen Vladeck has gone so far as to opine that the trial itself is 'anticlimactic' precisely because, even if the presiding judge is correct in not admitting evidence secured while Padilla was in a military brig, the civilian trial creates a palimpsest of those three-and-a-half years. The procedures used to detain Padilla and the techniques used to interrogate him have never been fully questioned and can now be neatly swept under a large rug.

Believe me, if he is a terrorist, he will find his appropriate place in the afterlife. But how can the White House claim that Padilla "received a fair trial and a just verdict"? A juror would need to have been living in the hodoo in way-outer Mongolia without pirated satellite TV to reasonably claim that they knew nothing about Padilla's case and could make an impartial decision. As the article states: arguably, Padilla's co-defendants were already guilty by infamous association rather than by the force of concrete evidence. (I guess that's why 'conspiracy' may become the anti-terrorism charge of choice for the future.)

And again, believe me, I want to believe in the conventional judicial system. Which is why I feel insulted by the White House with its claim of due-process being served -- even after they actively engaged in circumventing it. As it says in the IHT:

"President George W. Bush and his aides have often criticized the Clinton administration for treating terror as a crime, and they have created an alternate system of military detention centers and military tribunals, or commissions, to try terrorist suspects."

Adam Liptak has an interesting article in the NYT about how Padilla's trial sets a likely pattern for future anti-terrorist trails. The University of Pittsburgh law School site has a nice repository of materials about Padilla's detention and trial.

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