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I Wear My Sunglasses At Trial

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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April 24, 2007

The Economist on the “farcical” prosecutorial strategy in the forthcoming Padilla trial:

It is quite possible that Mr Padilla intended to harm Americans—that, as George Bush remarked after he was arrested, he was “a bad guy”. A key piece of the prosecution’s evidence will be a document, said to be an application of sorts, that Mr Padilla is said to have filled out in hopes of joining al-Qaeda. The paper, allegedly from an al-Qaeda safehouse in Afghanistan, is said to bear his fingerprints.But to show that the paper is what the prosecution says it is, and to prove its provenance, a CIA officer will have to testify. This has turned out to be tricky. The agency wants its man, who worked in secret in Afghanistan and remains undercover, to testify in disguise. But will testimony by an unidentified CIA employee, presumably in shades and with a false moustache, really be used to put Mr Padilla in prison for up to 30 years? After revelations of CIA involvement in “black sites” (secret prisons), “extraordinary rendition” (sending suspects to allies to be interrogated and possibly tortured) and “coercive interrogations” (waterboarding), any jury might look askance at testimony from an anonymous agency man.

And, Britain’s densest (and I mean that in the highbrow sense, not a reference to fatuity) newsweekly gets it exactly right.Padilla’s legal journey—from federal prisoner, to military enemy combatant, to federal prisoner again—is a) illustrative of the administration’s refusal to rely on traditional judicial institutions in the war on terror, and b) could (will) result in the guilty walking free or the innocent in legirons. Forget Padilla as a defendant; look at him as a symbol of the way in which the Bush administration has failed in its half-cocked attempt to jury-rig (no pun intended) a Rube Goldberg parallel adjudicatory system befitting the so-called “Global War On Terror” (or GWOT, for those in the know). Here’s hoping that trial comes out right, whichever way right is.