Workers Vanguard No. 893
25 May 2007
War on Terror Show Trial
Abducted, Tortured, Framed Up: Free Jose Padilla!
Five years after Jose Padilla was arrested on trumped-up charges of plotting to set off a radioactive dirty bomb on U.S. soil, he is on trial in a Miami courthouse on vague conspiracy charges that have nothing to do with the original accusation. Seized at Chicagos OHare airport in May 2002, Padilla was initially held as a material witness in the September 11 grand jury investigation. One month later, he was declared an enemy combatant and disappeared into a Navy brig in South Carolina. Padilla was trapped in a legal netherworld with no way to challenge his imprisonment, no contact with his family and—for almost two years—no access to lawyers. When the Bush administration finally brought criminal charges against Padilla in November 2005, the dirty bomb plot was dropped like yesterdays weapons of mass destruction.
The indictment in the criminal case does not mention a single specific terrorist attack or plot, in the U.S. or anywhere else. Instead, Padilla and co-defendants Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi are accused of conspiracy to support violent jihad around the world by raising money for Islamic charities or traveling abroad. For this they face life in prison. In the words of the federal prosecutor, the accusations involve an inchoate crime rather than a completed operation. He added: Its very hard to particularize (Washington Post, 23 April).
Indeed. This is a show trial, pure and simple, and one with the clear intent to help enshrine as permanent features of the legal system an array of repressive laws and measures enacted as part of the war on terror. Thus, in announcing the frame-up charges against Padilla, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales credited the broad surveillance powers allowed under the USA Patriot Act with making the prosecution possible. The USA Patriot Act, which had the overwhelming support of the Democrats both when it passed following the September 11 attacks and again when it was renewed in early 2006, has shredded civil rights for immigrants and everybody else. Moreover, Gonzales now widely discredited Justice Department has made clear that if Padilla wins an acquittal in his criminal trial, the Feds will reinstate his classification as an enemy combatant and throw him in the brig again!
The governments torture of terror suspects marks the Padilla case from beginning to end. The source of the dirty bomb tale was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom the authorities have not dared to put in a courtroom. While Mohammed confessed to dozens of terrorist attacks and plots, he has stated that he falsely implicated several people as a result of his being tortured. According to a lawyer for Padilla, the sources for the original 2002 arrest warrant were Abu Zubaydah, a top Al Qaeda leader, and Binyam Ahmed Muhammad, who was being held at Guantánamo. Zubaydah, who was shot during his capture, was reportedly denied painkillers as an interrogation device. Binyam Muhammad was reportedly whipped, hung from the ceiling of his cell and later taken to Morocco where he was tortured with a razor. Binyam was told all along that his job was to be a witness against Padilla, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, said his lawyer, adding that his client has no conscious knowledge that he ever met Padilla (New York Times, 4 January).
For three years and eight months, Padilla was tortured by extreme sensory deprivation—the windows of his tiny nine-by-seven-foot cell were blacked out, and he could only leave his cell wearing blinkered goggles and headphones. This was punctuated by blasts of harsh light and loud, pounding noise. A motion filed by Padillas lawyers last fall demanding that the criminal charges be dismissed for outrageous government conduct described treatment that echoes the horrors of Abu Ghraib: Padilla was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time and threatened with imminent execution. He was also injected with drugs believed to be LSD or PCP. However, while Padillas lawyers presented evidence showing that he had been broken under torture and was incompetent to participate in his own defense, their motions were rejected.
As we wrote in War on Terror: Torture, Spying, Imperialist Butchery, (WV No. 890, 13 April) concerning the governments detaining and disappearing those it deems enemies:
This has been the fate of hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign terror suspects around the world who have been kidnapped and disappeared, kept in CIA secret prisons where they are subject to enhanced interrogation—the new Orwellian term for old-fashioned torture. The kidnapping and unlawful detention of Jose Padilla exemplify how measures first enacted against non-citizen terror suspects can be expanded to encompass citizens as well.
The transparent motivation behind Padillas indictment in 2005 was to avoid a decision in the U.S. Supreme Court on his enemy combatant designation. The previous year in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan and imprisoned without charges as an enemy combatant, the Court had ruled that a state of war is not a blank check for the president and that Hamdi must have a fair opportunity to rebut the Governments factual assertions. At the time, however, the Court refused to hear Padillas case, supposedly because his habeas corpus petition was filed in the wrong court.
Padillas lawyers duly filed a new writ for habeas corpus and the South Carolina District Court in February 2005 granted the petition, ordering that Padilla be released from military custody. The Bush administration appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the administration. Citing the 18 September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, the court declared: Those powers include the power to detain identified and committed enemies such as Padilla. When Padillas lawyers then appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, the government quickly moved Padilla from military to civilian custody and brought criminal charges against him, arguing that his Supreme Court appeal was moot. In this way, the White House sought to preserve the legal precedent giving the government the right to declare U.S. citizens enemy combatants and to lock them up indefinitely.
A crucial element in the prosecutions current case against Padilla is what it calls a data form that allegedly represented his attempt to be admitted to an Afghan mujahedin training camp. A covert CIA agent, using a false name and partial disguise, told the jury of receiving the five-page document as part of a mass of material in a pickup truck delivered by some unnamed person in Kandahar, Afghanistan. But the data form does not mention Al Qaeda nor indicate what purpose it supposedly served. In fact, Padillas name is not even on it.
The charges against Padillas two co-defendants are just as bogus. Apart from setting up various Islamic charities, they are alleged to have been overheard on phone calls referring to playing football or going on picnics, which the government claims is coded language referring to violent plots. According to the New York Times (4 January), Padillas voice is heard in only seven of the tens of thousands of recorded conversations, and they deal with things like the death of Hassouns grandmother and Padillas marital problems. We call for the charges against Padilla, Hassoun and Jayyousi to be dropped and for their immediate release!
The criminal indictment against Padilla has its roots in the prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to carry out attacks against New York City landmarks. Wiretaps on Sheikh Abdel Rahmans phone brought Hassoun and Jayyousi to the attention of the Feds, who began to eavesdrop on them. Eventually, phone conversations with Hassoun brought Padilla into the web of surveillance. When the government decided to transfer Padilla to civilian custody, his name was simply added to the existing indictment of Hassoun and Jayyousi! Such are the convenience and utility of conspiracy charges for the government.
The U.S. capitalist rulers under both Democratic and Republican administrations have a long history of using conspiracy prosecutions against their perceived opponents. The early trade unions in this country were outlawed as criminal conspiracies. Leftists, union organizers and opponents of the U.S. imperialists entry into World War I were imprisoned on charges of seditious conspiracy. Eighteen Trotskyists and leaders of the Minneapolis Teamsters union were thrown in jail in 1943 under the Smith Act for conspiracy because of their opposition to U.S. imperialism in World War II.
The draconian policies enacted by Bush & Co. under the pretext of the war on terror were built upon laws enacted under the Democratic Clinton administration, such as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. While campaigning on the basis that they are best suited to wage the war on terror, the Democrats do get exercised when the Bush gang fails to limit such powers to going after the workers and oppressed at home and abroad and starts picking on its bourgeois rivals (e.g., the Justice Department purge). Reflecting the sentiment of an increasingly large section of the ruling class, the Democrats also tactically differ with the incompetents of the Bush regime over how best to serve the interests of U.S. imperialism—for example, how soon to effect the extrication from the quagmire of the Iraq occupation in order to more effectively pursue the occupation in Afghanistan, moves against Iran and counterrevolutionary machinations against the deformed workers states of China and North Korea.
As opposed to the Anybody but Bush swamp of liberals and so-called leftists who seek to pressure the Democrats to fight all the way to the White House in 2008, we understand that the system of capitalist imperialism has been and will continue to be enforced by barbaric measures of repression. As the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee wrote in a July 2003 amici curiae (friends of the court) brief, the case of Jose Padilla poses the evisceration of the rights and privileges of citizenship embodied in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution and secured on the battlefield of the Civil War and in class and social struggle over the past hundred and more years. If the imperial President is upheld, Padillas detention threatens to become the Dred Scott case of our time, a declaration that Citizens have no rights that the government is bound to respect.
While using every legal means at hand to defend such rights as exist, we fight for the revolutionary transformation of this country—for a proletarian socialist revolution that will put the capitalist class out of business once and for all and replace it with workers state power. Our purpose is to build the revolutionary workers party necessary to lead that struggle.