Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guilty Verdict in Padilla Case

Breaking: the jury in the Jose Padilla case has just announced a guilty verdict. I don't have time to write a decent story on this at the moment, but the verdict is analyzed over at Firedoglake, which has been excellently covering the trial since day one.

The evidence presented by the prosecution was sparse at best – taped wiretaps of Hassoun and Jayyousi captured discussions of vegetables and family life – discussions the prosecutors claimed were code for terrorist activities rather than humanitarian aid work as claimed by the defense. For Padilla, the hyped charges that initially presented this “jomoke” (to quote Lew) as a “star recruit” for Al Qaeda amounted to a supposed “application” to AQ with seven Padilla fingerprints on it. Blocked from the trial was evidence of the torture of Padilla during the 3 1/2 years he was held as an enemy combatant....

Jonathan Turley on CNN says “many lawyers believed he could secure his freedom” because of his treatment. “The complication is that he has all these issues where he can appeal.”

Meanwhile, only a few days ago, The Christian Science Monitor had an excellent three part series on Padilla, the torture he endured, and the important legal and constitutional issues in this case. There is no way to think about this guilty verdict without feeling outraged. Here's the links to the CSM series:

US terror interrogation went too far, experts say

US Gov't broke Padilla through intense isolation, say experts

Beyond Padilla terror case, huge legal issues

From the CSM articles:

Padilla was delivered to the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., where he was held not only in solitary confinement but as the sole detainee in a high-security wing of the prison. Fifteen other cells sat empty around him.

The purpose of the extraordinary privacy, according to experts familiar with the technique, was to eliminate the possibility of human contact. No voices in the hallway. No conversations with other prisoners. No tapping out messages on the walls. No ability to maintain a sense of human connection, a sense of place or time.

In essence, experts say, the US government was trying to break Padilla's silence by plunging him into a mental twilight zone. Padilla was not the only Al Qaeda suspect locked away in isolation. Although harsh interrogation methods such as water-boarding, forced hypothermia, sleep deprivation, and stress positions draw more media attention, use of isolation to "soften up" detainees for questioning is much more common.

"It is clear that the intent of this isolation was to break Padilla for the purpose of the interrogations that were to follow," says Stuart Grassian, a Boston psychiatrist and nationally recognized expert on the debilitating effects of solitary confinement.

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