Not Fit

The U.S. government finally is getting around to giving Jose Padilla, U.S. citizen, a trial. But there’s a catch. Naomi Klein writes,

Padilla’s lawyers are arguing that he is not fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government.

Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born former gang member, was classified as an “enemy combatant” and taken to a navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a cell 9ft by 7ft, with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a “truth serum”, a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.

According to his lawyers and two mental health specialists who examined him, Padilla has been so shattered that he lacks the ability to assist in his own defence. He is convinced that his lawyers are “part of a continuing interrogation program” and sees his captors as protectors. In order to prove that “the extended torture visited upon Mr Padilla has left him damaged”, his lawyers want to tell the court what happened during those years in the navy brig. The prosecution strenuously objects, maintaining that “Padilla is competent” and that his treatment is irrelevant.

Back in the 1950s we were perpetually being told that these sorts of things happened in the Soviet Union, and aren’t we glad we lived in America?

Curt Anderson, Associated Press:

“He is immobilized by his anxiety,” said Patricia Zapf, a forensic psychologist who administered tests on Padilla in October. “He believes he will go back to the brig and he will die there.”

The competency hearing before US District Judge Marcia Cooke on Padilla’s competency is crucial in deciding whether he and two co defendants will stand trial in April. …

… Dr. Angela Hegarty, a forensic neuropsychiatrist, said she concluded after examining and testing Padilla for more than 22 hours last fall that he is mentally incompetent for trial because he has post-traumatic stress disorder. Zapf reached the same diagnosis and recommended that Padilla receive treatment.

The prosecutors, of course, say Padilla is just fine.

Back to Naomi Klein:

According to James Yee, a former army Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo, there is an entire section of the prison called Delta Block for detainees who have been reduced to a delusional state. “They would respond to me in a childlike voice, talking complete nonsense. Many of them would loudly sing childish songs, repeating the song over and over.” All the inmates of Delta Block were on 24-hour suicide watch.

Human Rights Watch has exposed a US-run detention facility near Kabul known as the “prison of darkness” – tiny pitch-black cells, strange blaring sounds. “Plenty lost their minds,” one former inmate recalled. “I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors.”

Wednesday a federal appeals court ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees cannot use the U.S. court system to challenge their incarceration. That was bad enough. But Padilla is a U.S. citizen, capriciously stripped of habeas corpus at the discretion of the Bush Administration and subjected to psychological torture for nearly six years.

The Soviets used to send political dissidents to psychiatric asylums and labor camps. The gulags sound downright humane compared to what our government did to Jose Padilla.