Creative Destruction

December 4, 2006

Jose Padilla Update

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics,Politics — Brutus @ 6:53 pm

I blogged before about Jose Padilla, who has been detained since 2002 as an “enemy combatant” until earlier this fall when he

was added as a defendant in a terrorism conspiracy case already under way in Miami. At the time, the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the legality of his military detention — and thus the issue of the president’s authority to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him indefinitely without charges — when the Bush administration pre-empted its decision by filing criminal charges against Mr. Padilla.

The quote above is from a December 4 article in the New York Times.

My prior concern was with Padilla’s being held without charge and the court’s refusal to review this denial of civil rights. Padilla is a U.S. citizen. My new concern (considering the old one was obviated by both the court and the Bush Administration) is that during his detention, Padilla was held in isolation and deprived not only of society (other than his interrogators) but of sensory stimulation. According to the New York Times article,

his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door … windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and … he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran.

Further, when he was taken from his cell for dental care, he wore noise-blocking earphones, blacked-out goggles, and manacles at the ankles and wrists. Although military apologists insist that he was provided food, clothing, shelter, sleep, and medical care, thus treated humanely, that standard is such a low threshold that over the course of several years the logical result was realized: Padilla was rendered unfit to assist in his own defense and is unconvinced that his attorneys are actually on his side and not merely another interrogation technique. In short, his captivity was so torturous and inhumane that he is a ruined man.

I cannot fathom a compelling state interest in ruining people in this manner. Since Padilla’s ordeal began, we have revised our policies and laws to legalize (though not legitimize) torture and detention and in the process absolved Padilla’s captors of any liability for their actions. This is just one case; and as with Abu Ghraib, there is plenty of reason to believe that many, many other cases that haven’t drawn public scrutiny are occurring as well. And the response of the American people? Very little. In our failure to protest and agitate against such awfulness committed in our names, we give tacit consent. Indeed, many people believe that Padilla is merely an example of the collateral damage necessary to prosecute the war on terror and further believe that useful intelligence can be obtained with such tactics. I remain utterly unconvinced any good can come from torture. Our government’s abandonment of humane treatment of prisoners (among other things) speaks to the growing power of the police state already upon us.

Cross-posted at The Spiral Staircase.



  1. I do not think people are truly aware of just what the Bush administration has done, or undone, over the past six years. One by one, the administration has attacked and either tweaked or completely side-stepped the Bill of Rights, particularly Amendments four, five, six and eight. Much of this was done right in the public’s face, and it is as if people did not understand what was happening or were too stupefied to care.

    The sudden change in Jose’s status is practically an admission that they have nothing on him. The (strategic) “brilliance” of what they subjected Jose to is that he is so traumatized that he may get convicted based solely on his erratic behavior. Another factor, which is sad that it even has to be considered, is whether the State has taken advantage of Jose’s submissiveness and fed him false, incriminating information.

    While I am not one for conspiracy theories, I think it is telling that much of the power this administration has obtained essentially negates most of protection the Founding Fathers designed in the Constitution. It is as if the Bush administration wanted to see just how far they could go, and everyone knew, but nobody said anything.

    I truly hope that Jose does not remain in the State’s custody any longer than he has.

    Comment by toysoldier — December 4, 2006 @ 9:43 pm | Reply

  2. God, this is horrifying.

    It’s hard for me to comment on stories like this, because I can’t imagine what needs to be said. We shouldn’t have to explain that this sort of torture is pointless and wrong. We shouldn’t have to explain that it’s torture.

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that many Americans were eager for an excuse to eject civil rights, and humanity, out of their moral portfolios.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 5, 2006 @ 6:22 am | Reply

  3. Ampersand wrote:

    We shouldn’t have to explain that this sort of torture is pointless and wrong. We shouldn’t have to explain that it’s torture.

    I agree and would go farther that all sorts of torture are pointless and wrong.

    Comment by Brutus — December 5, 2006 @ 11:49 am | Reply

  4. Hey you guys, this is Creative Destruction. We’re not supposed to all agree with each other.

    (I agree, of course.)

    Comment by Daran — December 5, 2006 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  5. I feel bad for the way Mr. Padilla was treated.. However you must remember this man was not plucked out of thin air. He may have been mistreated. However you must ask yourself to what degree of mistreatment must we stop. How else are we to gain intimate knowledge of our enemies.. Make no mistake, this man was an enemy of the state.. No one I know has ever been accused of having ties to Al Queda. Do any of you even know how to contact them, cause I sure don’t. He put himself in that position to be suspected. Thats grounds for interrogation. I feel for him, and I like my civil liberties, and feel they are shrinking by the minute. that beeing said, I’ve done some pretty shady things in my life, and know people who have done much worse. Most of them have never been questioned about them. Let alone linked with the Jihad. Remember the witch hunts of Mccarthy, Hoover, etc. We as a nation have grown leaps and bounds since then, yet we are still a nation needing protection. If a few Padilla’s have to be mistreated for my son to live fearless of ” dirty bombs” and terrorists, then I would make the sacrifice myself..I am not saying question your government. However make damn sure you have your eye on the real enemy, because I am pretty sure they would ” misplace” any tapes they had lying around of your treatment as well.

    Comment by Aaron — March 1, 2007 @ 11:29 am | Reply

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