The Bush administration is throwing a snit fit because a formerly submissive federal appeals court is not allowing it to change the rules of the game one more time on the Jose Padilla case. Bush’s Justice Department angrily protested to a federal appeals court this week that “there is no basis for questioning the good faith of the government in moving forward with the indictment.”
The issue is not that the Bush administration wants to bring new charges against Padilla – but that it wants the court to completely forget the fact that Padilla was seized in 2002 and held without a trial for 3 years in a Navy brig as an enemy combatant. Earlier this year, the Bush administration informed the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that Padilla’s continued military detention was “imperative in the interest of national security.”
The Bush administration has decided that it wants to transfer Padilla to the criminal court system and prosecute him for much less serious charges. Many observers see this as a ploy to avoid having the Supreme Court review Padilla’s enemy combatant designation.
The Fourth Circuit – which previously broke all records for groveling to Bush power grabs – balked, warning that the Bush administration’s reversal caused a “substantial cost to the government’s credibility before the courts.” The appeals court declared that the Bush administration’s reversal created the impression that Padilla may have been locked up for 3 years “by mistake.” Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman nicely captured the gist of the decision: “The court’s meaning was plain: Either you were lying to us then, or you are lying to us now.”
Bush’s Justice Department went hysterical on this one, deriding the judges for seeking to “usurp” Bush’s authority as commander-in-chief during war time. The judges were guilty of “an unwarranted attack on the exercise of Executive discretion.” In this case, it is the discretion to make up the rules as Bush goes along.
The Bush administration response to the court decision would have been more honest if they had admitted the judges’ real crime: Lese Majeste. Anyone who does not submit and applaud the government’s power grabs is guilty of an offense against the sovereign’s dignity.