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Being Jose Padilla
Friday, 17 August 2007 00:04

by Jayne Lyn Stahl

Now that a U.S. citizen has been convicted of being a "terrorist," one can only hope that his treatment in the brig, which has been declared a "state secret," will declassified, and see the light of day in appeals court which is where this case is heading.

Psychologists, and those who have visited with Jose Padilla over the past three plus years of his incarceration say that they see profound emotional wreckage as a result of his detention. Regardless of whether Mr. Padilla's treatment can be tweaked such that it conforms with his constitutional entitlements, as an American, there is no way in hell that anyone can justify turning an otherwise healthy 36 year old into the shell of a man. If the treatment he received at the hands of his captors is ethical and aboveboard, then why is it classified?

Clearly, too, the time has come to put the entire infrastructure of an illegal, and ominous so-called war on terror on trial, and show that those who maim, humiliate, kill, and psychologically torture in the name of homogenized purity are the true terrorists.

Padilla's conviction would not have been possible were it not for more than 300,000 FBI "wiretap intercepts" (AP) of conversations, many of which took place in Arabic.

Yesterday in a courtroom in San Francisco, the Electronic Frontier Foundation continued their fight against telecommunications behemoth AT&T for its assault on the Fourth Amendment as a result of complying with the government to illegally tap citizen's phones. The phrase "state secret" reared its ugly head, too, in this San Francisco district courtroom. An attorney working with EFF laments that if the case against AT&T is lost, it may be the last time that any court challenges the executive branch on warrantless wiretapping.

Any government that withholds information from court, regardless of the context, on the basis that the data withheld constitutes a "state secret" is not merely insidious, and pernicious, but is one that converts justice itself into a dirty bomb.

This is not to defend Jose Padilla, or anyone alleged to act against the peace, and security of the United States. This is to defend the Fourth Amendment, and a policy of judicial transparency which has been compromised by the arbiters of secrecy of the Bush administration. Indeed, we no longer have a government, we have a covert operation. The actions of this administration with respect to its ongoing rape of FISA, its egregious abuse of National Security Letters, its executive branch overreach leads one to ask how it is that, for more than half a decade, Bush and company have been able to pull the wool over the eyes not merely of Congress, but of the Supreme Court.

This bogey man "terror" has been used as a weapon of mass manipulation, and has been more effective than anything we've seen since the days of the great Crusades. One can only hope that, on appeal, Mr. Padilla's lawyers will demand declassification of his days in the brig, so the word "terrorist" may be revealed to mean about as much as the word "Communist" mean during the Red scare days of the 1950's; only instead of hiding under a desk in a deserted classroom, justice now hides behind the robe of a counterfeit judge.

Is it ever okay to compromise someone's sanity in the name of combatting an elusive enemy? Do the ends justify the means and, if so, whose ends are we justifying? If this is what the framers had in mind by the Bill of Rights, they would have called it the Bill of Wrongs instead.

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