In an effort to further infringe on the civil liberties of Americans in the name of security, the Bush administration is planning to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the executive branch’s right to indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen.
According to AP reports, Chicago resident Jose Padilla was arrested by the FBI at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in June 2002 after returning from an international flight. When President Bush determined that Padilla was a “grave danger” to national security because of suspected al-Qaida ties, he was transferred to military custody in Charleston, SC.
The Bush administration’s attempts to justify Padilla’s 21-month detainment are weak attempts to further presidential power at the expense of the civil liberties laid out in the U.S. Constitution.
The 6th amendment states “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” Padilla, also accused of allegedly plotting to detonate a radiological “dirty bomb”, was denied these rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens.
The Bush administration -which allowed Padilla to meet with an attorney for the first time two weeks ago – is fighting hard against the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals’ December decision that the president had overreached his military power on domestic soil.
However, the court was justified in their decision because of the Bush administration’s lengthy imprisonment of Padilla and previous record of paper-thin evidence in the war on terror. These weaknesses include the whereabouts of leading al-Qaida officials and the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
If Padilla is indeed guilty, as an American citizen, he is guaranteed legal rights that are being completely disregarded.
Of these rights, the presumption of innocence is woefully ignored by the Bush administration as they continuously refer to Padilla as an “enemy combatant.”
This apparent bias by the administration further highlights its inability to provide just trials for U.S. citizens suspected of participating in terrorist activities. The U.S. Constitution is meant to protect citizens from any form of martial law that the executive branch might impose.
Padilla is a verified U.S. citizen with inalienable rights guaranteed by our nation’s constitution, however, his unlawful and unfounded detention is an obvious violation of his right to justice. President Bush has violated this right by making his administration judge, jury and jailer before a panel of Padilla’s peers can weigh the evidence against him.
In an already unclear battle, the civil rights of U.S. citizens do not need to be violated to prove a point.
If there are enemies at home, we have a legal system that is established to handle these situations, and the Bush administration has no right to overreach their limits.
Jason E. Hutchins for the editorial board