Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Bush Administration's Use of Torture Means Padilla Cannot Be Prosecuted on Original Charges

The U.S. Justice Department has decided not to charge Jose Padilla with trying to build a "dirty bomb" or with having ties to Al Qaeda -- both of which were supposedly why he was arrested in the first place -- because the only evidence supporting those charges comes from two high-ranking Al Qaeda members whose testimony was obtained under torture.

Several reasons have been given for the US government's decision this week not to include charges of ties to Al Qaeda or the plans to build a 'dirty bomb' in its indictment against US citizen Jose Padilla. The New York Times Thursday quoted unnamed current and former government sources say one of those reasons may be that it was unwilling to allow the testimony of the two Al Qaeda members who linked Mr. Padilla to the above plot because the two men may have been 'subjected to harsh questioning.'

The Qaeda members were Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Abu Zubaydah, a top recruiter, who gave their accounts to American questioners in 2002 and 2003. The two continue to be held in secret prisons by the CIA, whose internal reviews have raised questions about their treatment and credibility, the officials said.

One review, completed in the spring of 2004 by the CIA inspector general, found that Mohammed had been subjected to excessive use of a technique involving near-drowning [known as waterboarding] in the first months after his capture, according to US intelligence officials.

The anonymous sources quoted by the Times say that the Bush administration decided not to include the more serious charges because the two top Al Qaeda men could "never be used as witnesses," and their testimony was the only thing linking Padilla to the bombing plots. Officials were concerned that "it could open up charges from defense lawyers that their earlier statements resulted from torture."

The Guardian's Jamie Wilson writes that the Bush administration was also worried that details of the CIA's global network of secret detention and interrogation centers would come out if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah (who are both being held in the CIA prison archipelago) appeared in court.

The CIA has never publicly acknowledged it is detaining Mr Mohammed and Mr Zubaydah. It is not known where they are being held. But it was reported last month the CIA was using secret detention centres in eastern Europe, possibly in Poland and Romania, for interrogations, thus beyond the reach of US law.

Internal reviews by the CIA have raised questions about the treatment and credibility of the two men. The New York Times said one review, completed in spring last year by the CIA inspector general, found that in the first months after his capture Mr Mohammed had suffered excessive use of "waterboarding", a technique involving near drowning which entails the detainee being strapped to a board and then submerged.

From this news, we can draw two conclusions:

First, after spending so much time rewriting and reinterpreting the meaning of domestic law and international agreements to permit the U.S. to torture detainees in the war on terror, it turns out the Bush administration doesn't trust the credibility of information obtained under torture enough to use it in court. They know it's not reliable. They know torture is morally wrong, evil, barbaric, and uncivilized. And they know that the American court system would not stand for a prosecution based on "evidence" gained through torture.

Second, IF Padilla did have ties to Al Qaeda; IF the Justice Department's case against him had merit; then the Bush administration has destroyed that case by using torture to obtain evidence.

Put another way, the Bush administration has seriously damaged this country's ability to bring suspected terrorists to justice, and thus has gravely compromised U.S. national security.

So there you have it, folks. The president who used the Bill of Rights for toilet paper; and who has made the name of the United States synonymous with contempt for human rights -- all for the supposed purpose of protecting Americans' safety -- has killed the U.S. government's ability to successfully prosecute alleged terrorists.

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