Sunday, August 19, 2007

John Doe Padilla Convicted of Conspiracy

Jose Padilla, center, is escorted to a waiting police vechicle by federal marshals in this Jan. 5, 2006, file photo. He has been on trial in Miami for most of this year, charged with conspiring with al Qaeda to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the United States. Photo by J. Pat Carter, AP

On Thurday August 16 2007 A federal jury convicted Jose Padilla of three counts of conspiracy in a trial that was the culmination of five years of a criminal proceeding that is among the most shameful in the history of the United States justice system.

I am not an apologist for Jose Padilla, I belong to no "Free Jose" organizations nor am I a member of any "Jose Padilla defense funds," although maybe I should have been, maybe we all should have been because when they throw away the keys to Padilla's cell we will also throw away any pretense to being a nation of laws, a nation that respects human rights, we will throw away a large measure of what once made us a great and civilized nation.

I am also not a terrorist, nor am I a member of any terrorist organization and that declaration alone, in the modern, mandatory, cocoon of fear within which we are now required to live by governmental decree, is probably enough to have a tap placed on my phone and a couple of guys who look like the Blues Brothers parked in front of my house at odd hours. After all, if I have nothing to hide, why would I bring it up. Under the new Department of Justice rule book I must be indictable for something.

Jose Padilla was arrested over five years ago in May of 2002, picked up in Chicago after returning  from Europe and allegedly carrying over 10 grand in cash. He was held for  about a month as a material witness before Attorney General John Ashcroft delayed a trip to Moscow in order to announce that the US had discovered a plot to explode "dirty bombs" inside the country. Padilla was branded as the "Dirty Bomber" and George Bush declared him to be an illegal enemy combatant.

Padilla was a small time criminal, a US citizen born in Brooklyn, he had lived in Chicago and been a member of a street gang known as the Maniac Latin Disciples. He had been in prison at least once for aggravated assault after a gang member died as a result of fight in which he was involved. While in prison Padilla converted to Islam under the tutelage of someone who is reported to have preached a non violent, mainstream version of the religion. He attended mosques in Florida for years with one of the men who was convicted with him.

Padilla was probably a bad actor, I have seen nothing in his resume that would lead me to hire him as a youth counselor, but was he a terrorist? Who knows? That is the problem.

Had the government arrested him and presented it's evidence in a court of law, as is done every day, in conspiracies great and small in every city in this country, had Padilla been afforded the guarantees of the constitution of the nation of which he was a citizen, we might have learned the truth.

Now we probably never will, because what the government did was search for shortcuts, the law was inconvenient, due process, criminal procedure, rights of the accused, all that stuff was an impediment to the speedy production of positive results in their war on terror public relations campaign, which followed on the heels of 9/11 and continues unabated to this day.

Padilla was shipped off to a Naval brig in Charleston to spend the next three and one half years in total isolation, held in constant darkness, or constant light, under extremes of temperature, subjected to physical and psychological "enhanced interrogation methods," the Bush administration's Orwellian euphemism for torture. And the government got nothing. Nothing.

When all was said and done, after more than three years of criminal treatment, the government, faced with the likelihood that the courts were about to require them to put up or shut up, finally indicted Padilla on the three conspiracy charges of which, last week, he was ultimately convicted.

Padilla was never charged with being a member of al Queada, he was never charged with being a dirty bomber, he was not indicted on nor was he ever charged with any what was alleged at the beginning of this exercise in injustice over three years before.

Our current Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales last week called the conviction of Jose Padilla and his co-conspirators " a significant victory in our efforts to fight the threat posed by terrorists and their supporters."

If holding an American citizen or anyone else, for years, years, in military custody, without charging him with a crime, subjecting him to torture during the entire period, and then failing to indict or convict him of anything close to what they originally alleged is "a significant victory" then it helps me to understand their constant claims of significant progress in Iraq or in the "War on Terror."

Make no mistake, this was no victory. This was a failure of our system of justice deliberately brought about by an executive department and two Attorneys General who had, and have, nothing but, disdain, in fact, utter contempt for the American system of justice and for due process of law.

I'm not bleeding for Jose Padilla here, I doubt if Jose even knows who he is at this point.

By accounts  that I have read he has been driven insane by the circumstances of his confinement. It is reported that as part of the process of breaking him down he was forced to sign documents with the name "John Doe." One of their goals was to relieve him of his personal identity, they succeeded, all too well.

The government on Thursday convicted "John Doe" of three counts of conspiring to participate in terrorist acts. They can do the same to me, more importantly, they can do the same to you.

They have spared no expense of time, energy and money over the last six years. they have gone to great lengths in establishing shortcuts that enable them to investigate, arrest, imprison and torture any one they want, at any time and for any reason.

To this government, this Cheney/Bush administration, this criminal enterprise that is destroying America one liberty at a time, we are all, each and every one of us "John Doe."

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

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