This story got overlooked, and I have barely time to post today. But it should not be forgotten, as the man himself was for three years and seven months as a designated "enemy combatant" held in military custody at the U.S. Naval Brig in South Carolina. A story in the October 19 Christian Science Monitor describes the U.S. government's latest filing in the suit against it filed by Jose Padilla for mistreatment while in detention.
Padilla claims that during the period of his confinement he was subjected to severe sensory deprivation and isolation, in addition to suffering from sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, stress positions, and injections of mind-altering drugs. Doctors who have examined him agree that his treatment caused him serious mental harm.
Now the government says, according to CSM, that
US officials did not violate any clearly established constitutional rights when they held a US citizen in isolated military detention without charge for nearly four years and subjected him to harsh interrogation techniques.
The government has asked the judge in the case (in the U.S. District Court for South Carolina) to dismiss Padilla's suit as allowing it to go forward, as giving Padilla the right to pursue his claim purportedly bstructs military actions, offers aid to the enemy, and increases U.S. vulnerabilty to terrorist attack. (Padilla recently was convicted in a criminal conspiracy case and has yet to be sentenced.)
Barbara Bowens, who is civil chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina, says that "Padilla's designation, detention, and interrogation as an enemy combatant did not violate any clearly established constitutional rights".
From the CSM article:
The complaint says US officials violated Padilla's constitutionally protected rights to consult a lawyer, to gain access to the courts, to practice his religion and associate with family and friends without government interference, and to be free from coercive interrogation, free from cruel and unusual punishment, and free from illegal and arbitrary detention.
Fundamentally at issue in the Padilla case is whether such constitutional guarantees continue to protect a US citizen seized on US soil and held without charge in a US-based military prison once the citizen is designated an enemy combatant....
Some legal analysts say they are alarmed by the sweep of the government's position. "The notion that there is absolutely no limit in how the government treats US citizen detainees strikes me as a disturbing proposition," says Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C. "Most people would have thought before the Padilla case that the government can't simply do whatever it wants to a US citizen in military custody."
The Padilla case has been at the forefront of the government's attempt to pull down prisoner rights for all of us. Remember, this is not a case about a foreign detainee in some far-flung CIA prison. This is about an American citizen, no matter what you think of him, clapped alone in a cell for years, and subjected to very cruel and inhuman treatment. Now the government wants a legal ruling to show they can do this, and the victim cannot complain.
I'd add that Padilla's treatment is a perfect example of the DDD-style torture that the government's interrogation experts want to inflict on whomever they can, after waterboarding and other more physically assaultive forms of torture are finally banned. We cannot afford to ignore what the government is doing in this case. They are setting up the judicial wherewithal and precedent for domestic torture, and they are doing it now.
The full government brief can be found here. I would appreciate any feedback from legal experts on this. I would expect that would not be instant. Meanwhile, I've found nothing on the government's new brief on this anywhere on the web, except a mention at HowAppealing.