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Friday, December 16, 2005

Importance of the Padilla Case

The Christian Science Monitor has this to say about the case involving enemy combatant and alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla:
In the 3-1/2 years since his arrest at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the government has repeatedly asserted unilateral power in a way that has undercut Mr. Padilla's ability to defend himself.

In addition, Justice Department lawyers have used that same unilateral power to help insulate their actions from the scrutiny of the judiciary - including the US Supreme Court.

Critics see such tactics as a troubling symptom of the Bush adminstration's expansive view of presidential power. Supporters say the tactics are designed more to help win the war on terror than to win court battles.

That government strategy has left unresolved a string of legal challenges raising some of the most fundamental issues of US constitutional law. They include the president's authority to name US citizens as "enemy combatants" in the war on terror and what rights, if any, protect such citizens.

"At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in assessing the Padilla case in 2004. "If this nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny."

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