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June 9, 2003

The admirable Jeralyn Merritt, to whom we don’t link nearly often enough, reminds us that today marks a full year of the ongoing detention of an American citizen, Jose Padillo, in sensory deprivation without access to counsel or charges.

Reports the Charleston, South Carolina State:

Donna Newman says she isn’t asking for much. She wants to meet with one of her clients.

Virtually every other lawyer in the country can do that with ease, but it’s different when you represent Jose Padilla, the alleged al Qaeda dirty bomb plotter whom President Bush declared an enemy combatant a year ago today.

Although Padilla is a U.S. citizen, he has spent the last year in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., with no access to a lawyer and no way to appeal his detention.

Defense Department officials won’t even guarantee that he gets letters Newman sends him, nor will they tell her in what conditions he’s being held. It’s conceivable Padilla doesn’t know he even has a lawyer.

“He’s in a black hole, totally incommunicado,” Newman said as she talked about her frustrating yearlong odyssey.

“It’s like he fell down the rabbit hole,” she said. “Did I ever think a year later I would still be fighting just to see him? Of course not. This is America. Things like that aren’t supposed to happen here.”

Jeralyn suggests we commemorate this anniversary by re-reading Judge Learned Hand’s great “I Am an American Day” speech, given in Central Park on May 21, 1944, to an audience of thousands, including many newly-minted citizens. Sample:
What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.
It’s June 9, 2003. Has liberty “died there”? That’s up to you. [09:45 PM]
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Comments on The admirable Jeralyn Merritt,:

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2003, 01:23 AM:

Jose9 Padilla may be everything the government says he is and worse. Or he may not. But the conditions of his continued detention are one of the most sinister developments of all under the execrable Ashcroft. And the more they refuse to allow him the most basic rights, the more I tend to believe that the charges are trumped-up. Timothy McVeigh, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Unabomber...all these people get lawyers and trials. As they should. It's a disgrace.

Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2003, 10:08 AM:

Zacarias Moussaoui has lawyers, and this is a guy accused of being one of the 9/11 plotters, not someone who contemplated the idea of a dirty bomb. Richard Reid got lawyers. The guys in the Buffalo cell got lawyers, and a trial. Why doesn't Padilla get a lawyer? It looks more and more that it's because the government has no real case against Padilla (just as the timing of Ashcroft's announcing his arrest,more than a month after the fact, as "breaking news," looked pretty fishy). And that's the beauty of declaring an American citizen arrested in Chicago an "enemy combatant": the less of a case you have, the easier it is to hold him forever without having to worry about one.

Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2003, 05:24 PM:

I agree, Padilla has the right to a lawyer and a proper hearing. I've felt like "I don't know enough about it" too long on this. Of course I don't know enough about it; no one tells me anything. For the US government to treat an American citizen like this is unacceptable.

Ashcroft et al should be forced to explain themselves, and to accept solutions to any valid concerns they may have about the Padilla case: lawyer selected by lottery and/or sequestered, grand jury level security, whatever. Ie, I'm open to some creative modifications of standard procedure. But not this.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2003, 11:04 PM:

One quick factual quibble: The State is the newspaper of *Columbia*, SC, not Charleston (I think Charleston's is the Courier, or some such). Not a big deal, really, save to the residents of those cities, for whom the distinction is frequently of overwhelming importance.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 07:53 AM:

Okay, someone want to bop over to CafePress and start making "A Fair Trial For Jose9 Padilla" bumper stickers and tee shirts?

Paul ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 08:37 AM:

for whom the distinction is frequently of overwhelming importance.

No, not really. :)

Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 06:06 PM:

Hey, Jim, there's one already. http://www.cafeshops.com/chargepadilla

I think that the title is totally wonderful. "Charge Padilla." You go, whoever you are. The home page for them is:


There's an online petition. It appears to be dying of anemia, but I signed it, anyway. 184th out of a goal of 5,000. Not good.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 01:48 AM:

No, not really. :)

It seemed important enough when I was giving people directions to our house; on the other hand, this does suggest an attractive explanation for why we once endured a stretch of eighteen straight weeks without receiving our scheduled Sunday edition of The State and Record at our house on Whaley Street. Obviously, it was being delivered to some lucky (or unlucky, depending on your opinion) Charlestonian.

Rich ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 03:59 PM:

Ok - let's assume that the reason for the Padillo affair is something so important, so heinous that the Bush Administration is willing to risk huge political fallout. Probably not a bad assumption unless you assume they are stupid (which is always a bad assumption). Ok - so it IS important that secrecy surround Padillo for a while. Then appoint a joint non-partison proxy panel including a lawyer of his choice and have them all sign secrecy agreements prior to the hearing. Then upfront, we as a democratic, thinking people, can accept the outcome of the panel. If they say "Padillo needs to be held without access longer and the reasons are good" we live with it. If they say "No - Padillo needs to be provided access to the courts" the government lives with it.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 04:22 PM:

I don't think this administration has shown itself to be capable of joint non-partisan anything.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 06:08 PM:

Not to mention the fact that the Administration already knows whether their reasons are any good...they would never convene such a panel if they aren't, and if they are, they feel absolutely no obligation to justify themselves to the people. I suspect the former is the case, but it's barely worse than the latter.