Tuesday, December 05, 2006

what terrorists? part II

it's been a big week for domestic terrorists. after i finished my previous post about the disparity between how the justice system (and the media) treats muslims and christians who are suspected of terrorism (including how the media never even uses the word "terrorist" to refer to christians), more examples keep coming out of the woodwork.

consider the case of jose padilla, an american citizen and convert to islam. when he was arrested in 2002, the president and his surrogates were all over the tv, condemning him as a "dirty bomber" ("dirty" referring to the bomb, not to the swarthy padilla, though some probably meant it both ways). padilla was then held in isolation without charges for more than three years. he would still be there now, except for the supreme court:

Mr. Padilla’s status was abruptly changed to criminal defendant from enemy combatant last fall. At the time, the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the legality of his military detention — and thus the issue of the president’s authority to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him indefinitely without charges — when the Bush administration pre-empted its decision by filing criminal charges against Mr. Padilla.

Mr. Padilla was added as a defendant in a terrorism conspiracy case already under way in Miami. The strong public accusations made during his military detention — about the dirty bomb, Al Qaeda connections and supposed plans to set off natural gas explosions in apartment buildings — appear nowhere in the indictment against him. The indictment does not allege any specific violent plot against America.

despite the apparent lack of hard evidence against padilla, he is still being held under conditions so severe that he was placed in shackles, manacles, blacked-out goggles, and noise-blocking headphones simply to be escorted to the dentist. his lawyers say that his conditions of his detention have been so bad that they've effectively driven him crazy. he's been trapped in a kafkaesque nightmare for so long that he's developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

padilla's treatment is worse than in the country's hardest supermax prisons, and he hasn't even been tried. there is no rational reason to treat him like this (though rabid supporters will try to come up with one).

in contrast, consider the case of chad castagana, the freeper suspected of sending fake anthrax letters to left-leaning politicians and media figures. the la times buried its story on castagana, with few other outlets picking it up. castagana was charged within three weeks of his arrest and was given bond. (his bail is high—$350,000—but his fellow freepers could raise that in a week if they weren't so busy pretending he wasn't one of them.)

to recap: a muslim does something suspicious and is held for years without trial in unbelievably harsh conditions, before eventually being charged with being part of some vague conspiracy. but when a christian does something suspicious (something which the fbi has hard evidence of), he is charged quickly, treated like a normal prisoner, and, most tellingly, nobody even calls it terrorism.

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