The NY Times got this one exactly right:
The Padilla case was supposed to be an example of why the administration needs to suspend prisoners’ rights when it comes to the war on terror. It turned out to be the opposite. If Mr. Padilla was seriously planning a “dirty bomb” attack, he can never be held accountable for it in court because the illegal conditions under which he has been held will make it impossible to do that. If he was only an inept fellow traveler in the terrorist community, he is excellent proof that the government is fallible and needs the normal checks of the judicial system. And, of course, if he is innocent, he was the victim of a terrible injustice.
The same is true of the hundreds of other men held at GuantÃ¡namo Bay and in the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. This is hardly what Americans have had in mind hearing Mr. Bush’s constant assurances since Sept. 11, 2001, that he will bring terrorists to justice.
I’ve been writing about Padilla since the case initally appeared on the radar. I never understood how anyone, regardless of political affiliation, could blithely shrug off the fact that an American citizen was being stripped of his constitutional rights on the say-so of the President. As one of the ACLU people I met in Seattle over the weekend noted, it’s called the Bill of Rights–not the Bill of Suggestions.
Anyone who pays the least attention to, you know, facts, understands that this country has gone off the rails and is skidding rapidly toward an unknown destination. And anyone who bothers to dig a little deeper understands that the administration ostensibly in charge of our safety is deeply dysfunctional (just read the first forty or fifty pages of George Packer’s Assassin’s Gate if you have any doubt of this). I don’t know how anyone, at this point, can still believe that this administration could be trusted to manage the local Kwikee Mart, let alone the future of our country.
Still, there are some reassuring indications lately that Americans are not completely oblivious.