Thursday, August 16, 2007


See ya, Padilla

I’ve been somewhat following the Padilla case and have long marveled at the pains some in the press go through to make him sympathetic (constantly reminding us of his time at Gitmo) while providing us with their expert analysis of what was going on in the courtroom:

But after three days of prosecution testimony regarding [a crucial piece of evidence], what exactly it proves about Padilla is unclear.” Defense Cites Ambiguities in Evidence Against Padilla – May 19, 2007

AP writer Curt Anderson has been especially diligent in this:

"Defense lawyers for Jose Padilla chipped away Monday at the credibility of the government's expert witness, who said he could not disclose details about some of his work because of secrecy agreements with unnamed foreign governments. Padilla Defense Questions Terror Expert World Latest Guardian Unlimited

Then when the defense rested on Tuesday, Mr. Anderson was kind enough to explain what was going on:

“To decide whether Jose Padilla and two other men are guilty of supporting terrorism, jurors will need to get inside their heads.

“Was Padilla the "star recruit" of a terror support cell, or just a recent convert to Islam learning Arabic and the Koran? Did his codefendants aim to support Islamic extremists in global conflict zones, or were they trying to help innocent Muslims suffering in those same areas? “ Recruit or pupil? Padilla jury must choose 08/14/2007

I guess getting into those heads wasn’t so difficult because after receiving the case on Tuesday, the jury quickly processed three months of testimony and was back today (less than two days)with a Guilty! for everyone. Mr. Anderson so informs and at the same time explains the symbolic importance of the case:

“Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant, was convicted Thursday of helping Islamic extremists and plotting overseas attacks in a case that came to symbolize the Bush administration's zeal to clamp down on terrorism.”

(He makes it sounds as if the zeal is mis-placed.) But lest we feel too good about the verdict, Mr. Anderson reminds us:

But it was hardly a complete victory for the government. When Padilla was arrested in the months following the 2001 terrorist attacks, authorities touted him as a key al-Qaida operative who planned to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a U.S. city. That allegation never made it to court.”

Of course, the main reason it couldn’t make it to court was that the government didn’t initially provide the would-be terrorist a lawyer so anything to which he confessed was presumed inadmissible.

And that’s a great segue to read what Neal Sonnett, the Chair of the ABA’s Task Force on the Treatment of Enemy Combatants (and so, consistent with ABA by-laws, is a consistent critic of current Administration policy in this matter), has to say about all this:

"This verdict once again demonstrates that federal courts are perfectly capable of handling terrorism cases"

No doubt he was tagged to chair this Task Force because of his well-known non-partisanship but here he just sounds more like a Defense Attorney angling for future cases than a prominent commentator trying to make sense. Why does the verdict so demonstrate the competence of federal courts in terrorism cases? Does anyone really believe that had the jury come back with a Not Guilty, Mr. Sonnett would not have employed the same quote?

The issues surrounding Mr. Padilla’s incarceration were real – he is a US citizen and possibly entitled to certain protections we need not confer on your run-of-the-mill enemy combatant. But the administration wasn’t and isn’t rounding up other Americans under a similar pretext. Accordingly, I give this Administration the benefit of the doubt as to its intentions in these matters. I thought the DOD response to Mr. Sonnett’s Task Force report was lucid and adequately laid out the case for the Administration’s actions. Intelligent minds can civilly differ on this so I don’t want to come off as dogmatic but…

...Unabashed patriotism is not considered a virtue in many circles here and it is not inconceivable that many in our country will suffer from a lack of appropriate loyalty to this nation. Should their loyalties and efforts be directed to and for the benefit of one our enemies, do we really want a bright-line rule that says wait for their lawyers before anything else can happen?

Side Note: And don’t get any ideas that the jury here was somewhat suspect; it’s obviously beyond reproach because it was an “ethnically diverse panel of seven men and five women

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