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Sentence: Insanity


Jose Padilla's been convicted, and although no verdict has been recorded, he's already received a life sentence.

Padilla, as you may recall, was arrested in 2002 after getting off a plane from Europe in Chicago. He was originally accused of planning, with the al Qaeda members he'd allegedly met at a training camp in the Middle East, to set off a "dirty bomb" in some major American city. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft made a big deal of Padilla's capture - two months after it happened - and had him held without bail or access to an attorney as a "material witness" - and then, when Padilla managed to challenge that obviously unconstitutional action in court, President Bush had him declared an "enemy combatant" and held in a Navy brig in South Carolina for 43 months.

According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, "Padilla's cell measured nine feet by seven feet. The windows were covered over... He had no pillow. No sheet. No clock. No calendar. No radio. No television. No telephone calls. No visitors. Even Padilla's lawyer was prevented from seeing him for nearly two years."

According to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! , Padilla's lawyers have said that "Padilla was routinely tortured in ways designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and ultimately the loss of will to live," and "was forced to take LSD and PCP to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations."

Finally, after Padilla managed to get the Supreme Court to take notice of his constitutionally-unlawful situation, and as they were about to hear his case, Bush had him transferred back to civilian custody to face the criminal conspiracy charges of which he was convicted yesterday.

The government's sole documentary evidence of Padilla's "crimes" was a "mujahedin data form" that Padilla filled out to join the al Qaeda training camp, as well as a statement he made embracing Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. That's it: No evidence or statements about a "dirty bomb"; no statements or evidence that Padilla was planning to carry out any violent acts of any sort.

But worse than having been convicted on such flimsy evidence - one juror stated that she's already made up her mind as to his guilt before the testimony at trial was even completed - there's good reason to believe that Padilla's treatment over the past five years has driven him insane.

"His family, more than anything, and his friends, who had a chance to see him by the time I spoke with them, said he was changed," said Dr. Angela Hegarty, the forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Padilla in preparation for a hearing as to his mental status to help with his own defense. "There was something wrong. There was something very 'weird' -- was the word one of his siblings used -- something weird about him. There was something not right. He was a different man. And the second thing was his absolute state of terror, terror alternating with numbness, largely. It was as though the interrogators were in the room with us. He was like -- perhaps like a trauma victim who knew that they were going to be sent back to the person who hurt them and that he would, as I said earlier, he would subsequently pay a price if he revealed what happened."

Dr. Hegarty also found Padilla to be suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome," where "[h]e had developed really a tremendous identification with the goals and interests of the government... He expected that the government might help him, if he was 'good,' quote/unquote."

"What happened at the brig was essentially the destruction of a human being's mind," Dr. Hegarty said. "That's what happened at the brig. His personality was deconstructed and reformed."

Basically, Dr. Hegarty found that Padilla was brain damaged. By the government. Here in America. Of an American citizen.

And it could happen to you.

Enjoy your weekend.

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