Strange Twists in the Padilla Case
By Mike Whitney
-- -- Can the president of the United States imprison
an American citizen for 3 and a half years as an enemy combatant and
then in a flash change his mind and charge him as a criminal?
Isn’t that double jeopardy?
And, doesn’t it imply that Bush has created a parallel justice
system where he’s free to determine guilt or innocence according to
his own discretion?
Two weeks ago the Bush legal team completely reversed its position
in the Jose Padilla, “dirty bomber” case; dropping its claim that
Padilla be held as an enemy combatant and, instead, charging him
with 3 counts of conspiracy to murder US nationals, conspiracy to
provide material support to terrorists and providing material
support to terrorists in an 11 count indictment.
The case was just days away from going to the Supreme Court when
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that it would abandon
its nearly 4 year struggle to establish the president’s “inherent
right” to declare an American citizen an enemy combatant, thereby
stripping him of all his constitutional rights.
Why would Bush fight for so long to have the court vindicate his
claims of absolute authority only to ditch that effort in the last
few hours before it hit the high court? After all, Bush had already
prevailed in his case before the 4th Circuit Court. The three judge
panel unanimously ruled that the president was empowered by the
Congress to use “all necessary and appropriate force” in fighting
the war on terror. The judges concluded that these extraordinary
powers included the indefinite detention of citizens who the
president chose to label as enemy combatants, a moniker that has no
Okay, so Bush won a total victory. Now, here’s the tricky part:
after winning this ground-breaking, constitutional-shattering case,
Bush asked the 4th Circuit to vacate the ruling so the Bush
prosecutors could do a 180 degree turnabout and charge Padilla as a
Was the Bush team tipped off by the Supreme Court that the ruling
would not survive their scrutiny?
The 4th Circuit, trying to salvage its dwindling credibility, has
taken the unprecedented step of refusing to vacate their ruling to
further accommodate the president. In an unexpected rebuff, the 3
judge panel issued a terse statement that the Bush administration’s
attempts to change the ruling eroded public confidence in the war on
terror and made it appear like Jose Padilla had been mistakenly
incarcerated for 4 years. They also said that the case is of such
“national importance” that it should go to the Supreme Court.
Clearly, the issues of “enemy combatants” and the limitations of
presidential power need to be resolved in the high court.
Not nearly as confusing as it would become on Wednesday of this
week. That’s when the Justice Dept issued a statement that the 4th
Court “infringed on President Bush’s authority to run the war on
terror when it refused to let prosecutor’s take custody of ‘enemy
combatant’ Jose Padilla…and urged the US Supreme Court to
Once again, the 4th Circuit RULED IN BUSH’S FAVOR; granting him the
unconstitutional power to rescind the Bill of Rights and topple 200
years of legal precedent. They breezily overturned the fundamental
principles of habeas corpus, due process and the presumption of
innocence, simply to accommodate Bush. Now, they are being lambasted
by the Justice Dept. for defending their credibility and sticking by
Incredible! This is where tragedy becomes farce.
A spokesman for the Justice Dept said, “There is nothing remotely
sinister about the government’s effort to pursue criminal charges
that minimize evidentiary complications. Theirs is no basis for
questioning the good faith of the government in moving forward with
Is he serious? The DOJ is asking to vacate a ruling that it just won
after a grueling 4 year struggle and its spokesman says that there
is “nothing sinister” about that?
Whatever the Bush strategy is at this point it’s clear that the
appearance of a just process means nothing to the occupants of 1600
Pennsylvania Ave. For all appearances, the American judicial system
is merely a nuisance that they treat with complete disdain.
The Bush legal team will probably try to limit the involvement of
the Supreme Court by having them rule on (what the Justice Dept
calls) the “unwarranted attack on the exercise of Executive
discretion”. If they are successful, Bush will have pulled off his
judicial-coup; winning the tacit endorsement of the highest court in
the land for the supreme authority of the president.
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)