The New York Times gets it exactly right in today’s editorial on the Padilla conviction:
It is hard to disagree with the jury’s guilty verdict against Jose Padilla, the accused, but never formally charged, dirty bomber. But it would be a mistake to see it as a vindication for the Bush administration’s serial abuse of the American legal system in the name of fighting terrorism.
On the way to this verdict, the government repeatedly trampled on the Constitution, and its prosecution of Mr. Padilla was so cynical and inept that the crime he was convicted of — conspiracy to commit terrorism overseas — bears no relation to the ambitious plot to wreak mass destruction inside the United States, which the Justice Department first loudly proclaimed. Even with the guilty verdict, this conviction remains a shining example of how not to prosecute terrorism cases.
Let’s remember how we got here. Bush argued that our legal system was incapable of handling terrorism cases and eliminated basic Constitutional rights by detaining citizens indefinitely without charge or judicial review. Fortunately the Supreme Court rebuked Bush and forced Padilla’s case into court where it belonged.
We all want to bring terrorists to justice, but we don’t have to trample the Constitution to do so. Padilla’s conviction in a civil court, within the criminal justice system, shows that we can protect our safety without giving away our liberty.
PS-Karen, I hope you’re enjoying your vacation! I’ll get back to you shortly on your Gonzales post.