Such another victory …

The judge says Jose Padilla is competent to stand trial. Good. Now we get to hear in open court about the “special care” he received, which has left him incapable of believing that his lawyers are not just another set of interrogators working for his captors.

The torturers won a tactical victory in Federal court when a judge ruled that Jose Padilla &#8212 so psychologically shattered by his treatment in captivity that he is unable to believe that his lawyers are not just another set of interrogators working for his captors &#8212 is nonetheless “competent” to stand trial within the limited meaning of the term used by the courts.

Despite the strange sound of the ruling to a lay ear, and regardless of its legal soundness (which I have no independent reason to doubt) I’m pleased that the trial will continue. The next step is Padilla’s motion for dismissal on the grounds that what was done to him with your tax dollars and mine constituted “outrageous conduct” on the part of the government.

The prosecutors managed to keep most of that material out of the competency hearing. But the tiny part that did emerge, combined with the reluctance of Padilla’s captors to say how he had been treated, suggests that the torturers might have been better off losing than winning.

MIAMI — With no clock, watch or natural light to guide him, terrorism suspect Jose Padilla was jailed at a Navy brig in timeless isolation while anonymous jailers monitored him around the clock, a brig official testified Tuesday.

The disclosures in a federal courtroom by Sanford Seymour, technical director of the Navy detention facility in Charleston, S.C., confirmed for the first time some of the conditions of Padilla’s detention. His defense attorneys contend that Padilla’s sensory deprivation and treatment were tantamount to torture.


Seymour, a civilian who oversees correctional procedures at the military brig, appeared reluctant to disclose details of the “special care” ordered by the federal government for Padilla.

Prolonged silences by Seymour followed each of federal Public Defender Michael Caruso’s questions, as the witness waited for prosecutor Stephanie Pell to object, which she did at least a dozen times. When Cooke said he should answer, Seymour said he had “no specific recollection,” asked to hear the question again, or gave a cryptic response.

“Special care.” If there’s a Pulitzer Prize for euphemisms, that one ought to be a strong contender.

I don’t know about you, but I’m especially interested in learning the background to this little gem:

Maj. Andrew Cruz, a brig social worker who had monthly contact with Padilla, was also summoned to testify. But he was recently deployed to Afghanistan, and did not answer a call that had been arranged for him to testify by speakerphone.

Reminds you a little bit of the courtroom scene in Breaker Morant, doesn’t it? Somehow I doubt that the urgent need for Maj. Cruz’s services in Afghanistan would have interfered with his presence had his testimony been expected to help the prosecution.

Footnote There is a bright side to this, of course. No matter what was done to Jose Padilla, Sen. McCain will be able to retain his reputation for “straight talk” while remaining silent about it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: