Can the president of the United States imprison an American citizen
for 3 and a half years as an enemy combatant and then in a flash change his
mind and charge him as a criminal?
Isn’t that double jeopardy?
And, doesn’t it imply that Bush has created a parallel justice system
where he’s free to determine guilt or innocence according to his own discretion?
Two weeks ago the Bush legal team completely reversed its position in the Jose
Padilla, "dirty bomber" case; dropping its claim that Padilla be held
as an enemy combatant and, instead, charging him with 3 counts of conspiracy
to murder US nationals, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists
and providing material support to terrorists in an 11 count indictment.
The case was just days away from going to the Supreme Court when Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales announced that it would abandon its nearly 4 year struggle
to establish the president’s "inherent right" to declare an
American citizen an enemy combatant, thereby stripping him of all his constitutional
Why would Bush fight for so long to have the court vindicate his claims of
absolute authority only to ditch that effort in the last few hours before it
hit the high court? After all, Bush had already prevailed in his case before
the 4th Circuit Court. The three judge panel unanimously ruled that the president
was empowered by the Congress to use "all necessary and appropriate force"
in fighting the war on terror. The judges concluded that these extraordinary
powers included the indefinite detention of citizens who the president chose
to label as enemy combatants, a moniker that has no legal precedent.
Okay, so Bush won a total victory. Now, here’s the tricky part: after
winning this ground-breaking, constitutional-shattering case, Bush asked the
4th Circuit to vacate the ruling so the Bush prosecutors could do a 180 degree
turnabout and charge Padilla as a criminal.
Was the Bush team tipped off by the Supreme Court that the ruling would not
survive their scrutiny?
The 4th Circuit, trying to salvage its dwindling credibility, has taken the
unprecedented step of refusing to vacate their ruling to further accommodate
the president. In an unexpected rebuff, the 3 judge panel issued a terse statement
that the Bush administration’s attempts to change the ruling eroded public
confidence in the war on terror and made it appear like Jose Padilla had been
mistakenly incarcerated for 4 years. They also said that the case is of such
"national importance" that it should go to the Supreme Court. Clearly,
the issues of "enemy combatants" and the limitations of presidential
power need to be resolved in the high court.
Not nearly as confusing as it would become on Wednesday of this week. That’s
when the Justice Dept issued a statement that the 4th Court "infringed
on President Bush’s authority to run the war on terror when it refused
to let prosecutor’s take custody of 'enemy combatant’ Jose Padilla…and
urged the US Supreme Court to intervene".
Once again, the 4th Circuit RULED IN BUSH’S FAVOR; granting him the unconstitutional
power to rescind the Bill of Rights and topple 200 years of legal precedent.
They breezily overturned the fundamental principles of habeas corpus, due process
and the presumption of innocence, simply to accommodate Bush. Now, they are
being lambasted by the Justice Dept. for defending their credibility and sticking
by that ruling?!?
Incredible! This is where tragedy becomes farce.
A spokesman for the Justice Dept said, "There is nothing remotely sinister
about the government’s effort to pursue criminal charges that minimize
evidentiary complications. Theirs is no basis for questioning the good faith
of the government in moving forward with the indictment."
Is he serious? The DOJ is asking to vacate a ruling that it just won after
a grueling 4 year struggle and its spokesman says that there is "nothing
sinister" about that?
Whatever the Bush strategy is at this point it’s clear that the appearance
of a just process means nothing to the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. For
all appearances, the American judicial system is merely a nuisance that they
treat with complete disdain.
The Bush legal team will probably try to limit the involvement of the Supreme
Court by having them rule on (what the Justice Dept calls) the "unwarranted
attack on the exercise of Executive discretion". If they are successful,
Bush will have pulled off his judicial-coup; winning the tacit endorsement of
the highest court in the land for the supreme authority of the president.