Re "Government Says Padilla Plotted High-Rise Attacks," June 2: Deputy U.S. Atty. Gen. James B. Comey Jr. makes a chilling claim about the arrest and detention of Jose Padilla. Comey says that had Padilla been provided a lawyer early on, he probably would have exercised his right to remain silent and been released. Therefore, the federal government would not have been able to hold him incommunicado for the last two years and learn about his purported plans for mayhem.
According to the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial" so that his or her rights are protected and the public will retain confidence in the justice system. In the wake of the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, where illegal and inhumane methods were used so that prisoners could not remain silent, it seems reasonable to suspect that similar methods were used on Padilla. Is this what it now means to live in America? Are unending imprisonment and secret abuse to be standard methods?
I have no idea if Padilla is guilty, but I want him publicly tried (or released) so that everyone can see justice fairly meted out. Our predecessors fought a revolution to free themselves from King George III, who did not provide speedy and public trials, and who relied on inhumane methods to obtain information.
The U.S. Supreme Court should stop the Bush administration from resurrecting an approach to security that can be purchased only with a loss of liberty. Neither security nor liberty lies down this path.
The Justice Department spokesman justifies the indefinite imprisonment and the refusal to allow Padilla access to an attorney by his claim that Padilla poses a terrorist threat to our country. A dirty bomb would be horrible; so was the bomb triggered in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. If Padilla is a terrorist, so were McVeigh and Nichols. If Padilla poses a threat to American lives, McVeigh and Nichols took and intended to take hundreds of American lives. And yet McVeigh and Nichols were given the fundamental American rights of an attorney and fair and open trials.
In our "war against terrorism," let's not give up the fundamental American principles we're fighting for. To quote an Op-Ed piece on the same day ("When Dishing Out Blame, Don't Stop With Bush"): "What needs to go is the tragic alchemy that allows time-tested principles to be too easily discarded.... New approaches are surely needed. But they should not be embraced at the expense of the very principles that make wars worth fighting."
Re the Padilla case: The people and the judiciary have cut the Bush administration some slack because of war issues, but we cannot let the administration declare war in perpetuity -- and suspend the Constitution for the duration.
Padilla deserves a proper jury trial with a proper defense, as provided in our Constitution. And if he is properly convicted, there will be plenty of time for proper punishment.
What kind of example are we setting for the world?