Monday, September 03, 2007

Padilla's Kangaroo Court By Chris Stevenson

This presidential administration will go down as having taken the most liberties with dirty tricks as any other administration in history. The fact that they can detain an "enemy combatant" and torture him to the point where he can't competently defend himself against some of the most serious charges in US history is pure cowardice. To loosely connect him to the horrific events of September 11th 2001 and get away with it is astounding. Yet this is what many are made to believe regarding Jose Padilla; a man essentially no worse than an inner city gang-banger. Gang-banger convicted by gangsters. It wouldn't be out of line to recall the immortal words of Billy Batts in "Goodfellas" and tell this batty administration to "go home and get your F—kin' shine-box."

This is the man whose conviction is supposed to make us think we got payback for 9/11? This guilty verdict is supposed to make us breath a sigh of relief? I think not. If you run across Bush in a theater sneaking into the compassionate conservative section, ask him why he didn't have Luis Posada – a man with a record of killing – detained, tortured and prosecuted? And while his face is twitching (as it always does) ask him how the bin Laden search is going. Surely he must remember him; the man initially blamed for the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. The charges of Padilla meeting bin Laden and planning to detonate a "dirty bomb" were never substantiated (according to NPR). Undaunted, Bush trudged on with other charges he that he felt would stick.

Padilla was originally held as a material witness on a warrant issued in the state of New York stemming from 9/11. On 6/9/02 the President ordered then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to detain Padilla as an enemy combatant. District Court Judge Michael Mukasey may have been on the verge of questioning and ruling on the validity of continuing to hold Padilla under the material witness warrant, but he was then transferred to a military brig in South Carolina.

It was the Authorization for use of Military Force (AUMF) that legally justified the detention because it states you can use all "necessary force against… such nations, organizations or persons" under the opinion or based on opinion that a US citizen is an enemy combatant. No I don't know Padilla, I know he's not a saint, but this is the stuff of Kangaroo courts.

Accusations of being "light on evidence" and requests to drop some charges by the presiding judge add to the suspicious nature of the trial. Eventually it would be some wiretapped conversation with a co-defendant that would play a major role in his guilty verdict. It was assumed that plans between Padilla and co-defendant Adham Hassoun for a family outing at an amusement park was code language regarding plans for a domestic attack. Prosecutors (make that co-persecutors) played 70 intercepted phone calls, 7 of those calls actually had Padilla's voice on them. The notorious Chicago gang-banger was convicted by a jury of his "peers;" 5 Blacks, 4 whites, 3 Latinos and 0 Muslims, obviously all from south Florida. You'd think they'd at least flew in a couple of Chicanos from IL who owed him 20 bucks to sit in. The real kicker is Padilla wasn't even fit to stand trial, psychiatrist Angela Hegarty said that after 22 hours of examination he was mentally unfit, plus he exhibited a "facial tic." Hey, so does Bush. Perhaps he should have been on trial.

--Chris Stevenson is a columnist for the Buffalo Criterion .Contact him at


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano