The Trials of Jose Padilla

Nina Totenberg in NPR (via Balkanization):

The prosecution faces major problems in the trial. The defense has asked the judge to throw the entire case out, asserting that the government’s treatment of Padilla has been “so outrageous as to shock the conscience.”

According to court papers filed by Padilla’s lawyers, for the first two years of his confinement, Padilla was held in total isolation. He heard no voice except his interrogator’s. His 9-by-7 foot cell had nothing in it: no window even to the corridor, no clock or watch to orient him in time.

Padilla’s meals were delivered through a slot in the door. He was either in bright light for days on end or in total darkness. He had no mattress or pillow on his steel pallet; loud noises interrupted his attempts to sleep.

Sometimes it was very cold, sometimes hot. He had nothing to read or to look at. Even a mirror was taken away. When he was transported, he was blindfolded and his ears were covered with headphones to screen out all sound. In short, Padilla experienced total sensory deprivation.

During length interrogations, his lawyers allege, Padilla was forced to sit or stand for long periods in stress positions. They say he was hooded and threatened with death. The isolation was so extreme that, according to court papers, even military personnel at the prison expressed great concern about Padilla’s mental status.

The government maintains that whatever happened to Padilla during his detention is irrelevant, since no information obtained during that time is being used in the criminal case against him.

Padilla’s lawyer, Andrew Patel, rejects that premise. The assumption, says Patel, is that the U.S. government can do anything it wants to an American citizen as long as it does not use any information it extracts in a court of law.