The Indictment of Jose Padilla and the White House Assault on Legal Rights

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at

Since May 2002, Jose Padilla has been held in prison, denied his most basic legal rights. For 3 ½ years the U.S. kept Padilla locked up--not charged with any crime. Then on November 22, the federal government announced it was indicting Padilla and putting him on trial.

Under the principle of habeas corpus and other long-established legal principles of U.S. law, people are supposed to have certain official rights when arrested: to talk to and be represented by a lawyer, to be protected from indefinite detention without charges, to have a trial where the accused can hear the evidence and question witnesses, and so on. In Padilla's case, every one of these principles has been blatantly violated by the government. Padilla's arrest wasn't even made public until a month later. He was put in solitary and denied a lawyer for two years.

Now, by charging Padilla, the government is not apologizing or backtracking. On the contrary, this move is part of the Bush regime aggressively asserting that they have the power to treat people this way--and that they will.


A month after Padilla was arrested, the raving Christian-fascist Attorney General John Ashcroft made inflammatory public accusations against him, claiming he was "an al-Qaeda operative" who "was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or 'dirty bomb,' in the United States." Ashcroft said there was "evidence" from "multiple independent and corroborating sources."

Bush declared that Padilla was an "enemy combatant," and justified stripping this U.S. citizen of all rights by saying, "This guy Padilla's a bad guy, and he is where he needs to be--detained." The mainstream media repeated all this in screaming headlines, doing their part to justify Bush's outrageous actions.

But now, after stripping this Padilla of his legal rights simply on Bush's say-so, it comes out that the government has zero evidence to prove their accusation. ZERO! They did not charge him with planning to explode a "dirty bomb." They did not charge him of being a member of Al-Qaida. They did not charge him of planning any attacks inside the U.S. at all.

But the Bush regime still intends to keep Padilla locked up for the rest of his life. Their charges against him--being a low-level courier for Islamic groups in places like Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan--carry a possible sentence of life in prison.

The U.S. government had claimed they got information about Padilla and the "dirty bomb" plot from captives held by the U.S. in other parts of the world--captives it has come out were tortured. But who can believe anything that the liars of the Bush regime say, including about what they now claim Padilla is guilty of?

Consider what this government has done: The FBI seizes Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican who converted to Islam, as he is walking through Chicago's O'Hare Airport in May 2002, returning from a trip to Pakistan. He is disappeared into a nightmarish world of interrogation and punishment. The President and Attorney General suspend all the existing legal procedures, principles, standards, and rights.

Such rights and principles have been constantly violated in this country. But it is a major historic leap for this government to now announce it can throw habeas corpus and other legal principles right out the window, at will, if they label a prisoner an "enemy combatant."

The Bush White House is not asking for this power. They've declared that they already have it and don’t need approval from Congress or the courts. This legal precedent is already in force, being used, and embedded in how the government now operates. In formal legal arguments made in April 2004, Bush's Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement argued: "You have to recognize that in situations where there is a war--where the government is on a war footing--that you have to trust the executive."

By charging Padilla now, Bush is forcefully asserting his presidential powers of imprisonment.

Two months ago Judge Luttig of the Fourth Circuit court ruled strongly in favor of allowing Bush unprecedented power to imprison someone like Jose Padilla without trial or charges. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. Now, with the indictment of Padilla, the Justice Department is arguing there is no reason to go forward with new hearings in front of the Supreme Court--which would let stand the Luttig verdict in favor of Bush as the current ruling on presidential war powers.

In short, Padilla is now charged and will be put on trial--in order to strengthen Bush's presidential power to imprison other people, without trial, stripping them of their basic legal rights in the future.

Think about the dangerous changes in legal norms and standards that have already come about. Think about all that the White House and its agents have done to Jose Padilla. Think about who else they can and will target, if they are not stopped by a movement of the people who refuse to accept this "new normalcy."

That which you do not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept.

--World Can't Wait Call

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