Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Another Reason to Distrust Our DOJ

You all know by now that I am not a big fan of former Department of Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld but last month the Department of Justice did something to him that is just not right. In a display of blatant politics they dropped their representation of him, his former deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and other defendants in a lawsuit filed by convicted al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla and his mother. The Department of Justice continues to represent current Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, but no longer the Bushies.

As you may recall is an American citizen who was arrested in 2002; authorities claimed that he was plotting to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb." After the Bush administration designated Padilla as an "enemy combatant," he was held in a South Carolina Navy brig for 44 months.

Padilla was not convicted for plotting a U.S. terrorist attack -- largely because the case against him was built on information gathered during harsh interrogations. But in 2007, Padilla was convicted for "conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country" and "material support for terrorism." A judge sentenced him to 17 years in prison.

From his cell with time on his hands, Padilla is now suing Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others on the grounds that his "enemy combatant" status, military detention and the harsh interrogations -- the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats -- were unconstitutional. The suit originally named former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a number of lower-level officials from the brig and 48 unnamed John Does against whom Padilla later dropped his complaint.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel of South Carolina threw out Padilla's suit last month,.

It doesn't matter because Padilla can't lose. He's in prison already so it doe not hurt him to appeal. In 2005, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Padilla's military detention -- and still he can sue. Naturally, the ACLU has gotten involved. Padilla is only seeking $1 in damages -- but the big money, as far as taxpayers are concerned, is in the legal fees his attorneys seek.

All this means is that the defendants have had to live with a all this hanging over their heads. Now they face the added expense of legal bills to defend themselves for defending this country.

The Justice Department won't say why it won't represent Rumsfeld and the others. Spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler explained that such "matters are confidential and covered by the attorney-client privilege." Personal counsel ensures that employees "receive full, complete and independent legal advice." An unnamed private attorney source involved in the case said the DOJ can't fulfill its duty to represent clients for “policy reasons”. In other words, the Justice Department changed course in what seems to be a partisan move.

You have to feel sorry or our public servants and professional civil service employees. They go to sleep painfully aware that their public service now can mean endless litigation tomorrow. If they anger the other political spectrum's lawyers, the reward will be depositions, attorney consultations -- and now more likely, the lion's share of the legal tab.

Live Long and Prosper....

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