Monday, June 4, 2007

Where is Jose Padilla on the Night of the Democratic Debate? (Silent enim leges inter arma )

"The law is silent in wartime."

Lewis Z. Koch is doing a fabulous job over at firedoglake with his series coverage of the Padilla trial (and I borrowed the Latin quote from him, via Cicero). Koch reports on the inanity of the government's case, and on the ban on evidence that is keeping much of the truth of Padilla's treatment and torture interrogations from the jury. Now Judge Marcia Cooke has ruled FBI wiretaps will be included as evidence,

rejecting arguments by defense attorneys that phone conversations that mentioned Osama bin Laden were irrelevant and threatened to prejudice the jury.

The government picks and chooses its evidence, doing its best to fob off this phony show trial as the work of an intrepid government on the trail of wrong-doers.

Arrested in May 2002 at O'Hare Airport in Chicago for supposedly plotting to set off a "dirty bomb" for Al Qaeda, small-time ex-hood Jose Padilla, who converted to Islam in jail, is on trial with two others, co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, for vague conspiracy charges of helping Islamic terrorism. Held incommunicado for years at the Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina, and tortured psychologically with intense isolation, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, forced stress positions, and, according to Mr. Padilla's attorneys, psychoactive drugs, Padilla was transferred from "enemy combatant" status to federal indictee after the Supreme Court delivered their decision in the Hamdan case.

The torture Padilla endured was of the Kubark variety, a CIA interrogation formula that relies on psychological and neuroscientific research done forty to fifty years ago. Sometimes you will hear the press say that the U.S. is applying ex-Soviet or Korean or Chinese torture techniques, but the reality is that, while based on study of those techniques, the U.S., through the CIA, the School of the Americas, and the military's SERE programs, fine-tuned their own style of torture, and then exported it around the world.

I recommend that readers check out Koch's well-written essays on the Padilla trial. I'll try and look at a wide range of coverage and report it back here.

Democrats Speak Out Loudly for Habeas, Against Torture, for Human Rights... Not!

Meanwhile, why link the Padilla case to the Democratic debate? Because, with only a few very brief exceptions, nothing was said about the debasement of both democracy and basic decency by this country's descent into being a militarist, torturing country. (Kucinich may have been a partial exception, and Chris Dodd got in a shot against the Bush war on civil liberties at the very end, with Wolf Blitzer trying to cut him off. I'm sure others will feel I'm unfair to their candidate, and I hope you put their documented positions on militarism and torture in the comments of this piece, for all our sakes.)

Sure, I've both researched and reported that U.S. torture goes back decades. But the difference now is that it's openly debated, voted on, and supported still by the Congress and many public media voices. Bush has made torture into a talking point! and turned the direction of political discourse in this country towards the pre-Enlightenment era, i.e., backwards some two or three hundred years.

And this after the bloody tirades by GOP candidates at their FOX debate, clamoring one over the other (not to mention John McCain's political corpse) to make themselves more to the right than Bush and Gonzales on "rough" interrogations. And no Democrat will say nary a word about a U.S. citizen held without right to a hearing, in isolation, tortured for years, and now placed on a show trial where gag orders keep the jury from even hearing much of the evidence -- because the evidence was educed via torture of both the defendant, and also of the supposed witnesses to the "dirty bomb" plot (like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who no one can believe because of the non-stop torture of the man). Hence, the "dirty bomb" plot, the linchpin of John Ashcroft's pathetic career, was dropped, and is forgotten except by Koch and a handful of bloggers.

The Padilla trial should be getting top coverage across the blogosphere, but aside from Koch's articles at firedoglake, and the work of others, like Jeralyn at TalkLeft, and David Markus at the Southern District of Florida Blog, the case gets precious little coverage.

We should demand the release of Padilla and his co-defendants, victims of Bush's demagogic "war on terror" and pawns in his ambition to turn the United States into a torture nation. We can not afford to be silent. Not in a time of war. Not ever.

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