Fighting for a Day in Court for an American Tortured on U.S. Soil

The ACLU was in court yesterday trying to hold officials accountable for the torture of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla. In 2002 he was taken from a New York jail by the military, declared an "enemy combatant," and secretly transported to a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

He was imprisoned without charge for nearly four years, subjected to extreme abuse, and unable to communicate with his lawyers or family for two years. The illegal treatment included forcing Padilla into stress positions for hours on end, punching him, depriving him of sleep and threatening him with further torture and death.

In February 2007, Padilla filed a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials. Earlier this year the U.S. District Court in South Carolina ruled that the defendants were entitled to "qualified immunity" for their roles in the arbitrary detention and brutal abuse of Padilla because no "clearly established" law prohibited the torture of an American citizen designated an "enemy combatant" by the executive branch. Yesterday ACLU National Security Project Litigation Director Ben Wizner asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to reinstate the case. Here's are some highlights from the arguments, reported by the Associated Press:

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III asked whether the court should open the door to… litigation for several reasons, including the possibility that government officials tasked with interrogating or detaining terrorism suspects might be deterred from taking some actions that could protect public safety and human lives.

But Wizner said such deterrence of abuse is "a virtue, not a vice."…

Richard D. Klingler, a lawyer for former brig commander Catherine T. Hanft, said that allowing Padilla's lawsuit to proceed would improperly allow the courts to interfere in military matters.

"Can the military never be sued?" Judge Diana G. Motz said. "That's not true."

An attorney representing Rumsfeld, David B. Rivkin Jr., argued that military law already protects the rights of those in military custody, and Padilla already was entitled to file complaints about his treatment under a system that specifically addressed military detentions.

But Wizner said Padilla's lawsuit involves a civilian U.S. citizen illegally detained in a military jail.

Wizner argued that by depriving him of counsel and isolating him, the government denied Padilla access to that system. If the civil case isn't allowed to proceed, he said, authorities would be allowed to subject others to the same unconstitutional seizure and illegal detention.

The courts have dismissed other lawsuits brought by victims of the Bush administration's torture policy, but Padilla's is unique. As Wizner puts it, "If the law does not protect Jose Padilla — an American citizen arrested on American soil and tortured in an American prison — it protects no one."

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from Richard, V...

I must say I really am utterly confused by these "rules" that seem to have been made up out of thin air, and I say that as a person who's relatively acquainted with "military law," which always seemed arbitrary to me but who am I to question why. Hint: I wasn't allowed to ask; they really frown on such a thing. You follow orders and never ask why, especially when you're a private or corporal, but matters don't improve all that much when you rank at E-5.

For the record, there was never ANYthing capricious about what an "enemy combatant" was when I was in the war. It was always a soldier, or a soldier dressed in civilian clothes, but that could be proven to be connected to the NVA, the "enemy combatant" army.
But of course I once got a severe reprimand because I didn't kill these 2 people that my superior thought I should have neutralized (I believe that's what they call the ugly deed these days.) At any rate I DIDN'T dispatch of them because as I told the superior when he asked why: "Because it wasn't absolutely necessary to have anybody killed at that point." It certainly didn't sit well with him and I received a demerit.
Unfortunately, this business with Iraq, Afghanistan and terrorism confuses me. I keep hearing about things being done that don't just violate conventions but almost literally break them into thousands of pieces.

Don't get me wrong. I completely dislike what the people who did the September 11 attacks did, there's nothing else I could say but that it repulsed and sickened me. But the people high up in the Bush Administration seem to have enjoyed the torture a little too much and have had no return to a state of sanity after the fact, if you know what I mean.
Sometimes the line between a duty and a war crime is so unclear that it seems to disappear altogether, but there's almost always a return to sanity. Not so with anybody at the top levels of the Bush Administration. They seem to think their lies are going to carry them all the way to the grave.
Just like Richard Nixon thought and, as near as I can tell, his lies DID follow him to his funeral bed.
One can only hope that the funeral bed wasn't the last stop. One can hope that there's an Afterlife AND a soul and that Richard Nixon saw both - and was judged way more harshly THEN than he ever was in this life.
As well for Bush Junior, Dick Cheney and all their underlings.

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