The Bush Administration's
Torture of U.S. Citizen Jose Padilla
By Glenn Greenwald
11/11/06 "Lew Rockwell" -- -- The Bush administration's
lawless detention of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla – on U.S.
soil – was, as I recounted in my book, the first incident
which really prompted me to begin concluding that things
were going terribly awry in our country. The administration
declared Padilla an "enemy combatant," put him in a military
prison, and refused to charge him with any crime or even
allow him access to a lawyer or anyone else. He stayed in a
black hole, kept by his own government, for the next
three-a-half-years with no charges of any kind ever
asserted against him and with the administration insisting
on the right to detain him (and any other American citizen)
indefinitely – all based solely on the secret,
unchallengeable say-so of the President that he was an
day, I have trouble believing that we have a Government that
claims this power against American citizens and has
exercised that power and aggressively defended it – and even
more trouble believing that there are so many blindly loyal
followers of that government who defend that conduct. The
outrage that it provokes when thinking about it has not
diminished even a small amount and does not diminish no
matter how many times one reads, writes or speaks about it.
It is as profound a betrayal of the most core American
political principles as one can fathom.
administration finally charged Padilla with a crime (after 3
1/2 years of detention)
only because the U.S. Supreme Court was set to rule on
the legality of their treatment of Padilla, and indicting
Padilla enabled the administration to argue that his case
was now "moot." The Government's indictment made no mention
of the flamboyant allegation they originally trumpeted to
justify his lawless incarceration – that he was a "Dirty
Bomber" attempting to detonate a radiological bomb in an
American city (because the "evidence" for that accusation
procured by torture and was therefore unreliable and
unusable). Instead, the indictment
contained only the vaguest and most generic terrorism
allegations. Since then, the federal judge presiding over
Padilla's case (in the Southern District of Florida) has
expressed skepticism over the Government's case against
him and has, on several occasions, admonished them to
provide more specific information setting forth exactly what
Padilla is alleged to have done.
week, Padilla's lawyers filed a Motion to Dismiss the
Indictment against him on the grounds that the Government
has engaged in outrageous conduct – specifically, that they
tortured him for the 3 1/2 years he remained in captivity,
particularly for the almost 2 full years that they denied
him access even to a lawyer.
Via David Markus, a South Florida attorney who has been
reporting on the Padilla proceedings on his local blog,
Padilla's Motion to Dismiss
is here (.pdf). Markus excerpts a substantial part of
the description of Padilla's captivity, which is the first
detailed account I have read of the treatment to which
Padilla was subjected while in detention.
excerpting parts of it below (read the full excerpt at
Markus' blog or in
Padilla's brief). It is worthwhile to note that all of
the treatment described by Padilla has been described by
numerous other detainees, and from what I can tell, all
of the treatment he describes are part of the "interrogation
and detention techniques" which the President now has the
legal authority to invoke pursuant to the so-called
Military Commissions Act of 2006 – enacted by our
Congress just ten days ago. Thus, everything Padilla
describes is now perfectly legal in the United States – even
when applied against individuals charged with no crimes of
Markus notes, this is how the Argument section of Padilla's
"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the
process he does not become a monster. And when you look
long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into
you."Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 89
(Walter Kaufmann trans., Vintage Books 1966) (1886).
Padilla's Brief details the treatment to which he was
an effort to gain Mr. Padilla’s "dependency and trust,"
he was tortured for nearly the entire three years and
eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took
myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish,
depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live.
The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla’s torture was stark
isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity.
nearly two years – from June 9, 2002 until March 2,
2004, when the Department of Defense permitted Mr.
Padilla to have contact with his lawyers – Mr. Padilla
was in complete isolation. Even after he was permitted
contact with counsel, his conditions of confinement
remained essentially the same.
was kept in a unit comprising sixteen individual cells,
eight on the upper level and eight on the lower level,
where Mr. Padilla’s cell was located. No other cells in
the unit were occupied. His cell was electronically
monitored twenty-four hours a day, eliminating the need
for a guard to patrol his unit. His only contact with
another person was when a guard would deliver and
retrieve trays of food and when the government desired
to interrogate him.
isolation, furthermore, was aggravated by the efforts of
his captors to maintain complete sensory deprivation.
His tiny cell – nine feet by seven feet – had no view to
the outside world. The door to his cell had a window,
however, it was covered by a magnetic sticker, depriving
Mr. Padilla of even a view into the hallway and adjacent
common areas of his unit. He was not given a clock or a
watch and for most of the time of his captivity, he was
unaware whether it was day or night, or what time of
year or day it was.
addition to his extreme isolation, Mr. Padilla was also
viciously deprived of sleep. This sleep deprivation was
achieved in a variety of ways. For a substantial period
of his captivity, Mr. Padilla’s cell contained only a
steel bunk with no mattress. The pain and discomfort of
sleeping on a cold, steel bunk made it impossible for
him to sleep. Mr. Padilla was not given a mattress until
the tail end of his captivity. . . .
Other times, his captors would bang the walls and cell
bars creating loud startling noises. These disruptions
would occur throughout the night and cease only in the
morning, when Mr. Padilla’s interrogations would begin.
Efforts to manipulate Mr. Padilla and break his will
also took the form of the denial of the few benefits he
possessed in his cell. . . .
Padilla’s dehumanization at the hands of his captors
also took more sinister forms. Mr. Padilla was often put
in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be
shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in
his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room
causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his
cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely
cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied
even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human
dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a
time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim
of his captors.
substantial quantum of torture endured by Mr. Padilla
came at the hands of his interrogators. In an effort to
disorient Mr. Padilla, his captors would deceive him
about his location and who his interrogators actually
were. Mr. Padilla was threatened with being forcibly
removed from the United States to another country,
including U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where
he was threatened his fate would be even worse than in
the Naval Brig.
was threatened with being cut with a knife and having
alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened
with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to
stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He
was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation
sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be
confronted with false information, scenarios, and
documents to further disorient him. Often he had to
endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake,
and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla.
Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his
will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid
diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a
sort of truth serum during his interrogations.
Throughout most of the time Mr. Padilla was held captive
in the Naval Brig he had no contact with the outside
world. In March 2004, one year and eight months after
arriving in the Naval Brig, Mr. Padilla was permitted
his first contact with his attorneys. Even thereafter,
although Mr. Padilla had access to counsel, and thereby
some contact with the outside world, those visits were
extremely limited and restricted. . . .
deprivations, physical abuse, and other forms of
inhumane treatment visited upon Mr. Padilla caused
serious medical problems that were not adequately
addressed. Apart from the psychological damage done to
Mr. Padilla, there were numerous health problems brought
on by the conditions of his captivity. Mr. Padilla
frequently experienced cardiothoracic difficulties while
sleeping, or attempting to fall asleep, including a
heavy pressure on his chest and an inability to breath
or move his body.
one incident Mr. Padilla felt a burning sensation
pulsing through his chest. He requested medical care but
was given no relief. Toward the end of his captivity,
Mr. Padilla experienced swelling and pressure in his
chest and arms. He was administered an
electrocardiogram, and given medication. . . . .
cause of some of the medical problems experienced by Mr.
Padilla is obvious. Being cramped in a tiny cell with
little or no opportunity for recreation and enduring
stress positions and shackling for hours caused great
pain and discomfort. It is unclear, though, whether Mr.
Padilla’s cardiothoracic problems were a symptom of the
stress he endured in captivity, or a side effect from
one of the drugs involuntarily induced into Mr.
Padilla’s system in the Naval Brig. In either event, the
strategically applied measures suffered by Mr. Padilla
at the hands of the government caused him both physical
and psychological pain and agony.
is worth noting that throughout his captivity, none of
the restrictive and inhumane conditions visited upon Mr.
Padilla were brought on by his behavior or by any
actions on his part. There were no incidents of Mr.
Padilla violating any regulation of the Naval Brig or
taking any aggressive action towards any of his captors.
Mr. Padilla has always been peaceful and compliant with
his captors. He was, and remains to the time of this
filing, docile and resigned – a model detainee.
Padilla also wants to make clear that the deprivation
described above did abate somewhat once counsel began
negotiating with the officials of the Naval Brig for the
improvements of his conditions. Toward the end of Mr.
Padilla’s captivity in the Naval Brig he was provided
reading materials and some other more humane treatment.
However, despite some improvement in Mr. Padilla’s
living conditions, the interrogations and torture
continued even after the visits with counsel commenced.
sum, many of the conditions Mr. Padilla experienced were
inhumane and caused him great physical and psychological
pain and anguish. Other deprivations experienced by Mr.
Padilla, taken in isolation, are merely cruel and some,
merely petty. However, it is important to recognize that
all of the deprivations and assaults recounted above
were employed in concert in a calculated manner to cause
him maximum anguish.
is also extremely important to note that the torturous
acts visited upon Mr. Padilla were done over the course
almost the entire three years and seven months of his
captivity in the Naval Brig. For most of one thousand
three hundred and seven days, Mr. Padilla was tortured
by the United States government without cause or
justification. Mr. Padilla’s treatment at the hands of
the United States government is shocking to even the
most hardened conscience, and such outrageous conduct on
the part of the government divests it of jurisdiction,
under the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, to
prosecute Mr. Padilla in the instant matter.
that was done by the Bush administration to an American
citizen detained on U.S. soil – without any charges ever
being brought against him, let alone convicted of any crime.
All along, the Bush administration insisted it had the right
to abduct and detain U.S. citizens indefinitely and deny
them access to any courts or even to any lawyers, to either
contest the validity of their detention or the legality of
their treatment. That is still the Bush administration's
position, and the Congress less than two weeks ago purported
to give the President the legal authority to do virtually
all of that.
of Jose Padilla is one of the most despicable and outright
un-American travesties the U.S. Government has perpetrated
for a long time. It is
impossible to defend that behavior, let alone engage in
it, and claim with any legitimacy that one believes in the
principles that have defined and guided this country since
its founding. But there has been no retreat from this
behavior. Quite the contrary. The atrocity known as the
Military Commissions Act of 2006 is a huge leap forward to
elevating the Padilla treatment from the lawless shadows
into full-fledged, officially sanctioned and legally
authorized policy of the U.S. Government. The case of Jose
Padilla is no longer a sick aberration, but is instead a
symbol of the kind of Government we have chosen to have.
read this perfectly expressed
comment from a police officer concerning this whole