Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Not Guilty By Reason Of Inhumanity
By all accounts, Jose Padilla was a man who excercised poor judgment in the company he kept. But was he in fact a dangerous terrorist when he was arrested in May 2002, as the Bush administration claims? A lot is riding on the answer to that question, not least of which is Padilla's liberty.
Unfortunately, we may never know, because according to his lawyers, three years and eight months in the Navy brig at Charleston, SC, have rendered him mentally incompetent to stand trial:
The prisoner lived in isolation in a cell with only a steel slab for a bed. At times chained to the floor, he was deprived of light, sleep, a clock and heat. His interrogators injected him with "truth serum" drugs to try to loosen his tongue and threatened him with execution.
The Bush administration's lawyers (normally I'd say "the government", but in this case I refuse to) disputes the claims, both of mistreatment and of Padilla's incompetence to stand trial. And given the very low bar set for mental incompetence in criminal law, the court's ruling may very well go their way. But it says alot about the steady erosion of their credibility, both in this case and others like it, that Padilla's claims could even be entertained as possible, or worse, likely.
This is not an episode of 24. This is the United States of America. At least it was. I'm not so sure, anymore.