Friday, August 17, 2007

The Abdullah al-Muhajir verdict (AKA Muhajir Abdullah AKA Jose Padilla)

I think Captain Ed is dead-on target on this score:

The Bush administration has taken the understandable position that terrorists captured on foreign battlefields do not require habeas corpus. Wars cannot be fought under the terms of civil law enforcement. The Hamdi situation enters a seriously gray area in this regard, as American citizenship grants certain rights that the government cannot just wish away. With John Walker Lindh, captured under similar circumstances and arguably more culpability, they used the criminal courts as the best way to meet those Constitutional responsibilities, and won a conviction.

We should have done the same with Padilla, especially since he was captured not on a foreign battlefield but here in the US. If he conspired with al-Qaeda to kill Americans, then he's a traitor -- but even traitors have to be convicted in criminal court, with the due process we expect as Americans. And since it seems that the government had all the evidence it needed to convict him at the time of his capture, they have no excuse for applying an exotic and incorrect status to him to strip him of his rights to due process. After they won the conviction that would send him to prison for life, they could have worked on the other case at their leisure

It calls to mind the criticism by Stuart Taylor (discussed here) of the Bush counter-terrorism policy

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