Reinstate Torture Case, U.S. Citizen Asks Supreme Court

Jose Padilla (photo), a U.S. citizen who was jailed for four years  as an “enemy combatant,” is asking the Supreme Court to reinstate his lawsuit accusing top U.S. officials of torturing him. A liberal commentator cited Padilla’s case in saying federal courts have failed to hold executive branch officials accountable for illegal actions undertaken in the name of the “War on Terror.”

Throwing out Padilla’s lawsuit, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that the courts do not have jurisdiction over military detention cases, and that Congress has that jurisdiction, according to a Washington Post article.

In addition, the appeals court panel said that in cases such as Padilla’s, the judiciary should defer to Congress and the executive branch. Litigation such as Padilla’s could ultimately compromise military operations and national security issues, the panel reasoned.

His case has drawn international attention. “Padilla has long been a symbol of the George W. Bush administration’s alleged legal overreach following the September 11 attacks, when hundreds of so-called ‘enemy combatants’ — the vast majority of them foreigners captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan — were detained without formal charges or trial,” an AFP article reported. 

His American Civil Liberties Union attorneys wrote in Padilla’s petition to the Supreme Court,  “It is hard to conceive of a more profound constitutional violation than the torture of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.”

They continued, “Executive officials have claimed immunity for the torture of a U.S. citizen in South Carolina. In averting its eyes from that misconduct, the court of appeals relegated the defense of a core individual liberty to the political branches alone. Our system of checks and balances cannot tolerate that result.”

In a scorching Salon commentary, Glenn Greenwald noted the ACLU arguments in examining more broadly whether federal courts have been too deferential to the executive branch in the post Sept. 11, 2001 era, specifically in cases that involve Muslim litigants (including Padilla) purportedly linked to the War on Terror.

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