Friday, November 25, 2005

Padilla case tests the Patriot Act - The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON
THE GOVERNMENT'S 11th-hour decision to dump the ridiculous case of accused ''dirty bomber" Jose Padilla on the criminal court to which it should have been referred nearly four years ago is Exhibit A against the Patriot Act as currently written.

The Padilla case is justification for the need for supervision, oversight, and judicial examination of how the government uses extraordinary powers in extraordinary times. Precisely because terrorism is an elusive and therefore especially dangerous enemy, it is doubly important that the government behave responsibly and that its actions receive scrutiny.

Before the rudderless, dysfunctional Congress limped out of town last week, this was the principle behind what would have been a filibuster against an extension of the Patriot Act's major provisions. From the left and right -- uniting senators as diverse as Idaho's Larry Craig and Wisconsin's Russ Feingold -- the purpose of the filibuster would have been to review at least a few provisions, affecting individual rights and freedom, of the law that was enacted in such unseemly haste in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

There's still a chance of success when Congress returns, and the Padilla case is a wonderful example of why supervision is always a good idea where the power of the state is involved.

The Bush administration dumped the case it once trumpeted rather than face Padilla's diligent attorneys before the Supreme Court on a basic question, which they framed with commendable precision: ''Does the president have the power to seize American citizens in civilian settings on American soil and subject them to indefinite military detention without criminal charge or trial?"

The administration was facing a Monday deadline for making its own legal case to the court for the extreme proposition that any American could be held merely on its say so that the person was ''an enemy combatant" in an undeclared war.

To add outrage to a constitutional question with enormous implications, politics has polluted this matter from the instant Padilla was seized upon arrival at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in the spring of 2002, when terrorism fears were still easily inflamed. In a grotesque misuse of his office, then-attorney general John Ashcroft had taken time out during a Moscow visit to hold one of those theatrical press conferences for which he became infamous, designed to portray the apparent Islamist radical as evil incarnate. Ashcroft and his aides did this via one phrase -- dirty bomb -- that suggested the apprehension of someone intent on exploding a device with nuclear components capable of causing mass death.

As an alleged enemy combatant by executive fiat, Padilla was whisked away to military detention, and the government vigorously fought efforts to get him legal representation or to have his case heard in public by a judge. Technically, its argument was that any American could be held in secret and without legal proceedings simply on the unexamined word of a government official that he was ''the enemy."

As has happened before, however, the Bush people blinked as the prospect of a court hearing became more likely. In secret over the weekend, Padilla was transferred to Justice Department control. Now he is charged with working overseas with extremists over the last dozen years to support terrorism. He could still get life in prison if convicted.

Nevertheless, despite all that Ashcroft hyperbole, administration officials are now blithely claiming that the evidence for a specific ''dirty bomb" conspiracy was not worthy of consideration by a trial court after all. The rest of us are supposed to accept its explanation and move on.

Instead, the fitting punishment should be some rewriting of the Patriot Act. Once again, the Bush people are arguing that investigations that resemble fishing expeditions should be tolerated without oversight, judicial or otherwise. The administration wants unfettered power to go after records held by institutions (like hospitals and libraries) in pursuit of suspects or even simply for broader investigative purposes. More alarming, the administration wants unfettered power to send these institutions what are called National Security Letters, not only demanding personal information about citizens and illegal immigrants alike but also insisting that the fact the letters have been sent remain secret under penalty of prosecution.

In confirming a Washington Post story that some 30,000 of these letters have been dispatched since 9/11, officials are unable to cite a single case that justified such a broad dragnet.

The idea that this kind of behavior in a democracy should require some showing to an impartial party of some reason to suspect something is hardly far-fetched and worthy of inclusion in the Patriot Act. It could be called the Padilla Amendment.

Thomas Oliphant's a-mail address is Oliphant@globe.com.  

LINK
 
Yes, this is exactly what happens, and worse, when we do not abide by the lessons of life and history and human decency; when people wear their religion on their sleeves, but have the morality of garden slugs.
 
This is what happens when a politician's voter-supporters are convinced of the most whacked out theology imaginable in the 21st Century. (Talk about axial age, we are in one!)
 
Future
Date-lines
Amsterdam, Netherlands; 2040; The Christian-fundamentalists have brought down two empires. Rome and  America. For that we can all be grateful.
 
The Christanist, as they are now known, were the people who voted in large numbers for George W Bush, who most Americans agree, is the worst president in American history, certainly the worst any of us ever suffered, and that is saying something.
 
They, the crusading-crackpots,  did this completely for dogmatic, ideological, religious reasons.
 
Certainly there were other evil forces afoot; there were the NeoCons, most of whom are Zionist...some are Jewish and some are Christian fundamentalists. They are all NUTZ!
 
Then there are the idol-worshippers; the sociopathic whores of multi-national corporate America, and in some cases, just little old corporate America. (this includes the Mainstream news media
 
Then there is the ever present racism!
 
Damn!
 
How much longer does this have to go on.
 
I am sick of it,
 
and I am not black, Middle Eastern, Indian Oriental, etc., etc.,
 
I am Caucasian and Native American.
 
I was sick of it when the Supremes had to use "colored restrooms" during their tour of the south and I am even more sick of it now!
 
Do ya ever feel like screaming?
 
 
 

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