October 3, 2005

TIM LYNCH warns that the most recent Padilla decision deserves a lot more attention:

The federal government has been given a green light to deprive Americans of their rights to due process. No arrest warrants. No trial. No access to the civilian court system. You may not be able to see it on television, but this court decision is the equivalent of a legal hurricane-and it is no exaggeration to say that this is a level 5 storm with respect to its potential havoc for civil liberties.

Federal agents arrested Padilla at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago just after he arrived on a flight from Pakistan. The feds claim that Padilla fought against U.S. troops in Afghanistan, escaped to Pakistan and returned to the United States to perpetrate acts of terrorism for al-Queda. Instead of prosecuting Padilla for treason and other crimes, President Bush declared Padilla an “enemy combatant” and ordered that he be held incommunicado and interrogated by military and intelligence personnel. . . . Does this mean that black helicopters will be coming to the suburbs to take our friends away for questioning? Of course not. Still, even a subtle and selective use of the military to imprison American citizens on American soil ought to concern people regardless of political affiliation.

I agree with Lynch that this deserves a lot more scrutiny. American citizens arrested on American soil are a whole different kettle of fish from unlawful foreign enemy combatants. Most significantly, the risk of political abuses, as I’ve noted before, is much, much higher when it’s American citizens being imprisoned.

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