Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The "Dirty Bomber's" Day of Reckoning.....Finally

The “dirty bomber” has been officially indicted by the US Department of Justice. Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member with jihadist credentials, was charged with “supporting and participating in, armed confrontations in specific locations outside the US, and committing acts of murder, kidnapping, and maiming, for the purpose of opposing existing governments and civilian factions and establishing Islamic states under Sharia.” In 2002 Padilla was arrested upon reentry to the US from Pakistan. The purported terrorist was then detained as an “enemy combatant” for attempting to detonate a dirty bomb on American soil.

The 31 page indictment accuses Padilla of a variety of crimes but interestingly it does not mention the phrase “dirty bomb.” But that is exactly the reason he was detained. It seems odd to me that it took over three years for the Department of Justice to issue Padilla’s indictment and then failed to push the “dirty bomb” issue. If there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Padilla on the charges put forth today by the USDOJ, why wasn’t it done earlier? Did it take this long to gather the evidence against Padilla? Or did the US Attorney’s office simply not have “enough” evidence to convict him? If this is the case I am in the wrong profession. Hello Law School!

Obviously in the post-9/11 world counterterrorism measures have heightened the US government’s sense of urgency. Decentralized militant cells continue to exist within the US and many of the Patriot Act’s provisions attempt to enhance the FBI’s ability to effectively combat these cells. Many of these tools have been in the tool kit since the passage of the Patriot Act. So why weren’t these tools used to prosecute Padilla in the first place? Padilla is an American citizen and has the same rights under US law as other notorious terrorists such as Eric Robert Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, and Ted Kaczynski. (you know the whole innocent until proven guilty thing)

I understand the difficulties of fighting terrorism in 2005. The US will always fight this battle with one hand tied behind its back. This is a harsh reality but one that protects the rights of all American citizens. US citizens have the right to trial by jury whether they are hate spewing radicals or not.

After reading the indictment, I hope Padilla is in fact convicted. I think the case against him is strong, but the charges released today do not justify his lengthy detention. I am not an apologist. But I think it is a sad day in American history when citizens can be detained indefinitely by simply being labeled “enemy combatants.” This ability in itself provides the President with undue discretion in legal matters.

Who is to blame for this predicament? Well when all else fails blame Congress. Oh and the justice system. After 9/11 the US Congress acquiesced giving the President wide ranging powers to conduct the current “war on terror.” Additionally, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the President’s power to detain enemy combatants. In this case, the system’s checks and balances “worked” but the checks seem to be running out of steam.

Now that I am done I request that all you Johnny Cochrans find the two precedents for detaining individuals as “enemy combatants.” Ok, just kidding, I will cite them for you: Ex parte Quirin and In re Territo.

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