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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Government > Is Padilla’s Sentence a Win for National Security or a Way to Save Face?

Is Padilla’s Sentence a Win for National Security or a Way to Save Face?

LatinaLista — Today, Jose Padilla, the Al Qaeda terrorist-in-training, was finally sentenced.

Though he was initially caught, branded, persecuted and paraded by the federal government as a terrorist for allegedly wanting to create a “dirty bomb” in 2002, the judge in sentencing Padilla today went on record and said that

there was no evidence linking the men to specific acts of terrorism anywhere or that their actions had resulted in death or injury to anyone.

So, exactly why is Jose Padilla being sent away for 17 years and 4 months when he’s already experienced the worst treatment over the last six years at the hands of our own government which has left him mentally traumatized?

Jose Padilla, a former gang member, was accused by the Bush Administration of plotting to set off a radioactive dirty bomb. In fact, the White House fairly gloated over Padilla’s apprehension.
What better way to show how new policies restricting civil liberties could catch and punish those who would commit domestic terrorism. The Administration was so ready for a poster boy for their allegations that Al Qaeda would strike on US soil again that they took an impoverished, confused kid, with little education and labeled him a terrorist.
The only thing was the courts couldn’t find evidence of the accusations to convict him. Yet, because he’s been labeled a terrorist by the government, media and the public have accepted Padilla’s sentence without question, even in light of what he has suffered.
According to a Reuter’s timeline on Padilla’s case:

* Padilla, 37, was held without charge in a military prison for 3 1/2 years by order of President George W. Bush before being added to the terrorism-support case against co-defendants Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi.
* Padilla’s lawyers argued that years of extreme isolation and interrogation by the U.S. military had left him too mentally impaired to help his lawyers defend him in court. But a U.S. judge ruled Padilla was mentally competent to stand trial, saying, “This defendant clearly has the capacity to assist his attorneys.”
* Padilla has been in federal custody since May 2002, when he was arrested in Chicago on his return from Egypt.
* Bush ordered Padilla held in a military prison and the administration accused him of plotting to set off a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the United States. Padilla was never charged with that. While a challenge to Bush’s authority to hold him without charge was pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, Padilla was indicted in Florida and transferred to civilian custody last year.

Because Padilla did not receive the life sentence the government wanted that would have vindicated their allegations against him, and the judge had the decency to tell the truth about Padilla’s charges, regardless of the political fallout for herself, Padilla won’t be seen as the terrorist the Bush Administration so desperately needed him to be.
But there’s no mistake that Padilla is the poster boy for the War on Terror, the terror that has been exercised against some of our own citizens and citizens of the world who had the misfortune to look like a terrorist when the mania was at its height.
Has anyone ever questioned or thought it odd that the majority of the people who were foreigners and held at Guantanamo Bay, when transferred back to their home countries, were released immediately — even in the United Kingdom, our most staunch ally?
It wouldn’t be all that surprising if one of the duties of the new President will be to provide a pardon to Jose Padilla.
It would be a definite sign to the rest of the world that the US is back in the business of providing justice in this country, and that another kind of reign of terror is just a sad chapter in US history.


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  • Avatar
    yave begnet
    January 23, 2008 at 6:53 am

    I wouldn’t count on any new president pardoning Padilla, unless it’s President Kucinich.
    It would be a definite sign to the rest of the world that the US is back in the business of providing justice in this country, and that another kind of reign of terror is just a sad chapter in US history.
    Padilla’s disgraceful sentence is a reflection of the convergence of two overlapping systems of injustice: our foreign policy/national security system and our racist criminal justice system. John Walker Lindh admitted to bearing arms in Afghanistan against the U.S. as a Taliban soldier for four months, and received 20 years. It’s still not clear what exactly Padilla did except for think impure thoughts, since the government had to drop its initial unfounded ‘dirty bomb’ charges. They tortured him and illegally destroyed the evidence. The only thing the government was able to prove was that he traveled to the middle east. Yet Padilla still got almost the same sentence as Lindh, who is white.
    Yes, this is a miscarriage of justice, but it’s in keeping with the treatment of young men of color we routinely lock up for decades in our prosecution of the still ongoing War on Drugs. If history is any indicator, we’ll not see an end to these injustices anytime soon.

  • Avatar
    January 23, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Yave certainly said it all.

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