The Old ‘My Dog Ate Your Evidence’ Excuse

18:36 Sat 10 Mar 2007
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The US government claims to have lost interrogation video footage of Jose Padilla, in a case where such footage is critical to Padilla’s claim that he was tortured while in custody. Padilla’s imprisonment was already a disgrace, but this appears to bring it into the realm of the truly ludicrous.

Padilla was arrested (with much fanfare) in 2002 and accused of planning to detonate a “dirty bomb” in an American city. Not “charged”, but “accused”, because no criminal charges relating to the bomb have ever been brought against him.

Instead of charges, the Bush administration declared him an “enemy combatant”, and further declared that his status as an “enemy combatant” meant that he no longer had a number of key rights—such as access to legal representation, presumption of innoncence until proven guilty, habeas corpus, and so on. This all despite the fact that Padilla is a US citizen and so is supposedly fully protected by American laws.

Padilla was held by the military for over three years, and was going to be “tried” in a military tribunal, but the legality of this was challenged, and went to the Supreme Court—at which point the Bush administration, apparently unwilling to have the Supreme Court make a judgment on the case, finally charged Padilla with something. These charges did not include anything about “dirty bombs”, and there are strong indications that they will turn out to be little more than face-saving for the administration.

In any case, Padilla’s lawyers attempted to have him declared incompetent to stand trial, claiming that his torture rendered him unfit. The judge rejected this argument, but apparently plans to allow evidence and testimony about the government’s treatment of Padilla.

If Padilla had been a major threat to the US, then the whole thing (capped by the “loss” of the video footage) is incompetence on a truly massive scale. If he was in fact truthfully confessing various plots in some of the later (“lost”) interrogations, then that footage is obviously incredibly important even if inadmissible as evidence in court.

If he has never been a major threat, then incompetence, cruelty, and injustice are the hallmarks of how he’s been treated. And the “loss” of the footage is again, at the least, evidence of utter incompetence. In addition, however, it strongly suggests a cover-up.

The entire thing is a disgrace, one that should be completely illegal (but probably isn’t). It should be completely obvious that without oversight, secrecy hides, at the very least, gross incompetence, and may hide far worse things. Secrecy combined with unchecked executive power is a nightmare, and Padilla’s case makes clear that it’s also ridiculous—Kafka combined with the Keystone Cops.

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