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Absolute Immunity: The Supreme Court Punts on Whether Members of the Bush Administration Are Liable for Torture

Can our public officials arrest and torture American citizens without fear of accountability? The answer is a resounding yes.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court denied the petition filed on behalf of Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was arrested by the FBI in 2002 at Chicago O’Hare airport. The U.S. Government designated Padilla as an enemy combatant and transferred him to a military brig in South Carolina, where he was held for 3 and 1/2 years.

The Bush administration alleged that Padilla was plotting with Al Qaeda to launch a “dirty bomb” attack on a US city. That allegation was later dropped for lack of evidence.

During those years spent in military custody, Padilla was housed in a single cell with blacked-out windows, and he was denied all contact with the outside world. Not even a lawyer was permitted to visit him.

Padilla was also subjected to extreme interrogation tactics. These tactics included isolation, sensory deprivation, being shackled for hours in excruciating pressure positions and subjected to prolonged periods of constant light and then complete darkness.

The controversial measures applied to Padilla were approved at the very highest levels of the U.S. Government.

The ACLU filed a suit on behalf of Padilla against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, alleging that he violated Padilla’s constitutional rights. But that suit was rejected by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, who held that enemy combatants cannot sue for violations of constitutional rights in U.S. courts.

The ruling effectively prevents any U.S. Government official from being held accountable for torturing an American citizen.

Not only is that bad law, but it is a bad way to run a government.

For more coverage of the case, check out these articles at The Christian Science Monitor, Reuters, and the New York Times.

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Articles posted in the Cockle Blog are for informational purposes only. Nothing in the Cockle Blog should be taken for legal advice. In fact, Cockle Blog articles are not a substitute for proper legal research conducted by licensed attorneys.

Cockle Blog will occasionally provide opinions on certain cases and Court procedures. These opinions should be viewed with the recognition that no one can predict with certainty how the Supreme Court will rule on particular cases. Any reliance on articles contained in Cockle Blog must be done at one's own risk.