Ruling a week ago today, a three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Bush can hold Jose Padilla in a Navy brig forever, if he chooses to, without charging him with a crime: US can confine citizens without charges, court rules.
Legal experts said the debate is likely to reach the Supreme Court. Andrew Patel, an attorney for Padilla, said he might appeal directly to the Supreme Court or first ask the entire 4th Circuit to review the decision. “We’re very disappointed,” he said.
The ruling limits the president’s power to detain Padilla to the duration of hostilities against al Qaeda, but the Bush administration has said that war could go on indefinitely.
This is the nightmare that results from allowing the people who crafted the metaphorical “War on Terror” to treat the metaphor as reality. More time has now elapsed since 9/11 than the total time it took for us to go from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese surrender.
We are not fighting a war against al Qaeda. We are dealing (not particularly effectively) with a criminal terrorist conspiracy designed to survive in the face of our best efforts to eradicate it. Even if we’re lucky enough to eventually get a president capable of mounting such efforts, al Qaeda will exist, in all likelihood, for the rest of our lifetimes. Suspending the Constitution for the duration of the “war” is in fact equivalent to saying the Constitution no longer operates, period.