The Justice Department has gradually shifted–and lessened–the charges against Jose Padilla. He started as an Al Qaeda ‘dirty bomber.’ Now, he’s accused of providing material support to Al Qaeda as a member of a “North American terror cell.” I predict it’s only a matter of time before its entire case against him collapses like a house of cards.
Recently, the NY Times reported on a horrific video of the government’s mistreatment of him while he was imprisoned as an enemy combatant. Many of us find a trip to the dentist to be torture. But for Padilla, it’s getting to the dentist that is torture. The actual treatment was probably a pleasure as long as he got to remove those sensory deprivation goggles (see image).
Keep in mind this is a man who is a U.S. citizen. But the feds treated him, a docile, rule-observing prisoner, like he was a radioactive Al Qaeda operative. And in the process it broke his will and possibly drove him insane. His attorneys claim he has absolutely no ability to help with his own defense. They now wish a judge to determine his status. A finding of incompetence would prevent the government from continuing to try (read “persecute”) him.
But the irony of the government’s position is that they “vehemently deny” they mistreated him. However, if they did and Padilla is incompetent to defend himself–then he’s also incompetent to attest to his own mistreatment:
But the government said yesterday that it would be pointless to discuss accusations of government misconduct based on Mr. Padilla’s word if his competence was in question. The government vehemently denies that Mr. Padilla was mistreated in military custody.
This is doublespeak worthy of Orwell or perhaps Alice in Wonderland.
Here is how defense lawyers characterized his treatment in the earlier NYT article which reported on the video’s contents:
The images represent the latest and most aggressive sally by defense lawyers who declared this fall that charges against Mr. Padilla should be dismissed for ”outrageous government conduct,” saying that he was mistreated and tortured during his years as an enemy combatant.
Now lawyers for Mr. Padilla, 36, suggest that he is unfit to stand trial. They argue that he has been so damaged by his interrogations and prolonged isolation that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to assist in his own defense. His interrogations, they say, included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of ”truth serums.”
…Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, ”as part of an interrogation plan.”
Mr. Padilla’s situation, as an American declared an enemy combatant and held without charges by his own government, was extraordinary and the conditions of his detention appear to have been unprecedented in the military justice system.
Philip D. Cave, a former judge advocate general for the Navy and now a lawyer specializing in military law, said, ”There’s nothing comparable in terms of severity of confinement, in terms of how Padilla was held, especially considering that this was pretrial confinement.”
And this is what a defense psychiatrist found regrading his mental competence:
”It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr. Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense.
…”During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body,” Mr. Patel said. ”The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel.”
We made him crazy. But it wasn’t the torture that did it. And even if it did, there’s no way he can prove it since he wouldn’t be competent to build a case against the government anyway. That’s Catch 22-thinking of which Yossarian and Joseph Heller would be proud.