The terrorist mastermind, Jose Padilla, gets seventeen years:
Jose Padilla, once accused of plotting with al-Qaida to blow up a radioactive “dirty bomb,” was sentenced Tuesday to 17 years and four months on terrorism conspiracy charges that don’t mention those initial allegations.
The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke marks another step in the extraordinary personal and legal odyssey for the 37-year- old Muslim convert, a U.S. citizen who was held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant after his 2002 arrest amid the “dirty bomb” allegations. He had faced up to life in prison.
Cooke said she was giving Padilla some credit—over the objections of federal prosecutors—for his lengthy military detention at a Navy brig in South Carolina. She agreed with defense lawyers that Padilla was subjected to “harsh conditions” and “extreme environmental stresses” while there.
I don’t think there is any way to interpret this sentence other than as a rebuke to the government, who had been asking for life while insisting Padilla is a grave threat (yet, conveniently, never presented any evidence of that threat).
The article continues:
But Cooke said that as serious as the conspiracy was, there was no evidence linking the men to specific acts of terrorism anywhere.
“There is no evidence that these defendants personally maimed, kidnapped or killed anyone in the United States or elsewhere,” she said.
Civil liberties groups and Padilla’s lawyers called his detention unconstitutional for someone born in this country and contended that he was only charged criminally because the Supreme Court appeared poised to order him either charged or released.
Jurors in the criminal case never heard Padilla’s full history, which according to U.S. officials included a graduation from the al-Qaida terror camp, a plot to detonate the “dirty bomb” and a plot to fill apartments with natural gas and blow them up. Much of what Padilla supposedly told interrogators during his long detention as an enemy combatant could not be used in court because he had no access to a lawyer and was not read his constitutional rights.
Padilla’s lawyers argued for a lenient sentence, in part because of his minor role in the conspiracy that was the subject of last year’s trial and because of claims that he was mistreated and tortured while he was held at a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. U.S. officials denied those claims repeatedly.
I don’t know what the real story of Padilla’s involvement (if any) in this mess might be, and since most everything we do know was obtained while torturing the man, I doubt we ever will. I suspect that in the future, when cooler heads look back at this disgraceful period in our nation’s history, the alleged villainous treachery of Jose Padilla will be greatly overshadowed by the outrageous treatment he received and the dishonest and bumbling campaign to subvert the law while attempting to publicly convict him. The real story is not Jose Padilla, who for all we know may actually have been dangerous, but who is now, courtesy of the Bush administration, a broken and mentally deficient mess. The real story will be of the little men who, in moments of great patriotic fervor, decided it was up to them to destroy our nation’s principles in order to save us all.
History will not look kindly on those pikers.