To the editor:
After being held in a military jail for three years, without legal representation for much of the time, and being accused of an extremely heinous act, that is, developing a "dirty bomb" designed to disperse radiation over several city blocks, Jose Padilla has finally been charged with (drum roll) traveling overseas to train as a terrorist with the intention of fighting a violent jihad. The indictment does not state that Padilla was involved with a "dirty bomb."
Why is this alarming? President Bush claimed that the threat posed by Padilla was so grave it merited designating Padilla an "enemy combatant."
The so-called "enemy combatant" status permits President Bush to deprive U.S. citizens of their rights as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury." The Sixth Amendment states: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial : and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him : and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."
President Bush created the enemy combatant designation to deny American citizens their rights without congressional authority. It is time now to pass laws so that if American citizens are denied their constitutional rights, those denying them can be charged with crimes and punished accordingly.