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.