Thursday, August 16, 2007

Indictment of Torture

Padilla convicted on terrorism support charges reports MSNBC.

Terrorism support? Weren't we told that he planned to use a dirty bomb in the US, or perhaps blow up apartment buildings by causing natural gas leaks? Why wasn't he charged for those crimes?

Because of the Bush administration's torture policies, that's why. There is no way a court would have let them use the evidence they obtained- much of it from Padilla himself- while denying him, a US citizen, of his civil rights and holding him at a military detention center and treating him horribly.

At its root, US treatment of Padilla shows the inclination to do anything to break the silence of a suspected terrorist, even it means violating such basic citizen rights as protection against self-incrimination and harsh interrogation, as well as the right to a trial.

In short, the US military used terror – Padilla had little or no human contact for more than three years – to fight terror. Many mental health experts say his severe seclusion in a Navy brig impaired his thinking. A judge confirmed the disability but let the case continue, refusing to probe the government's hand in altering Padilla's ability to defend himself.

This last point is key, because it means that the current conviction may not even withstand judicial scrutiny on appeal. A panel of judges may throw out the conviction, and force a retrial in which Padilla gets to challenge the manner in which he was interrogated and detained (such as the use of sensory deprivation as shown below). As a US citizen, a reversal of the conviction is a real possibility.

And that one way that torture weakens- not enhances- our security. Our security is enhanced by bringing those who would harm us to justice. We cannot do this if we engage in torture, because that will render evidence obtained inadmissable in courts. It undermines the validity of any criminal- civilian or military- process, and it will result, inevitably, in some very bad people eventually being turned loose. Are we going to hold the people at GITMO forever?

Americans must get past their anger at terror suspects. They must seek justice. This can only be done by respecting the rule of law, and the Constitution, and by taking the high road, not resorting to torture, and, as the CS Monitor points out, the very thing we are working against- terror.

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