Due Process

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Jose Padilla is no angel. He had an extensive arrest record even before the Bush administration ordered him held indefinitely as an “enemy combatant.” But here is what the U.S. Constitution says about how the law must treat the non-angelic:

“No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” No person.

Two courts have considered whether Padilla, who once lived in Lauderhill, can continue to be held without charges — without due process. After a trial court said no, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said yes. The latter decision should be appealed to and reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Not only has the government not proved anything against Padilla, or even tried to, but it can’t even seem to make up its mind about what he’s supposedly guilty of. The military says, without proof, that he fought in Afghanistan as an al-Qaida operative and was plotting terrorism inside the United States.

What plots? Good question. The government first said he planned to detonate a radiological bomb in a U.S. city. Now it says only that he may have planned to use gas to destroy apartment buildings.

May have? That’s not exactly evidence, and it’s a far cry from justice.

Padilla is an American citizen. He has been detained for more than three years. If he is an enemy combatant bent on causing mayhem and destruction in the United States, he should be punished to the full extent of the law. But first he should be charged and convicted. That’s the American way.

National security is vital, of course, but do any of us want to live in a country where all it takes is an accusation from the government to lock someone up and throw away the key?

BOTTOM LINE: The treatment of Jose Padilla is unfair and of questionable legality. He should be charged or released.

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