Now that Jose Padilla’s case has been turned over to the criminal justice system, details of his 3 1/2 years of being held without criminal charges are coming to light. These details include a video made by his military jailers now in the hands of Padilla’s lawyers. Michael Isikoff at Newsweek and Deborah Sontag of the New York Times describe the video, which shows Padilla being taken to see a dentist. Sontag writes,
â€œToday is May 21,â€ a naval official declared to a camera videotaping the event. â€œRight now weâ€™re ready to do a root canal treatment on Jose Padilla, our enemy combatant.â€
Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padillaâ€™s bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padillaâ€™s legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.
Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Mr. Padillaâ€™s cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.
At least he had some human contact that day. Most days, he didn’t. Sontag continues,
Now lawyers for Mr. Padilla, 36, suggest that he is unfit to stand trial. They argue that he has been so damaged by his interrogations and prolonged isolation that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to assist in his own defense. His interrogations, they say, included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of â€œtruth serums.â€
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Todd Vician, said Sunday that the military disputes Mr. Padillaâ€™s accusations of mistreatment. And, in court papers, prosecutors deny â€œin the strongest termsâ€ the accusations of torture and say that â€œPadillaâ€™s conditions of confinement were humane and designed to ensure his safety and security.â€
â€œHis basic needs were met in a conscientious manner, including Halal (Muslim acceptable) food, clothing, sleep and daily medical assessment and treatment when necessary,â€ the government stated. â€œWhile in the brig, Padilla never reported any abusive treatment to the staff or medical personnel.â€
In the brig, Mr. Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, â€œas part of an interrogation plan.â€
Even if Padilla was not tortured, in fact a human being cannot endure more than three years of deprivation of normal human contact — not even the second-hand contact of books — without severe emotional and psychological harm. His “basic needs” were NOT met.
And Jose Padilla is a citizen. A citizen locked up by the government for 3 1/2 years without being charged with a crime. If the Constitution didn’t protect Padilla, it doesn’t protect any of us.
For an object lesson in why a rule of law is preferable to a rule of men, see the Confederate Yank.
Sortakinda related — Craig Whitlock writes in the Washington Post that not all Europeans are cooperating with the CIA and “extraordinary rendition.”