Things that Apparently Aren’t Torture

April 10, 2007

Judge Marcia Cooke of the federal district court in Miami rejected on Monday the claims of Jose Padilla’s lawyers that he was unfit to stand trial because of the torture he had been subjected to while in US government detention. This will allow Padilla’s trial to go forward next week.

It’s worth looking closely at what Padilla has endured while in government custody. In December, the New York Times reported on a video that was released of Padilla’s trip to the dentist:

Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padilla’s bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padilla’s legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.

Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Mr. Padilla’s cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.

The videotape of that trip to the dentist, which was recently released to Mr. Padilla’s lawyers and viewed by The New York Times, offers the first concrete glimpse inside the secretive military incarceration of an American citizen whose detention without charges became a test case of President Bush’s powers in the fight against terror. Still frames from the videotape were posted in Mr. Padilla’s electronic court file late Friday.

To Mr. Padilla’s lawyers, the pictures capture the dehumanization of their client during his military detention from mid-2002 until [2006], when the government changed his status from enemy combatant to criminal defendant and transferred him to the federal detention center in Miami.

In case you don’t have Times Select, I’ll skip ahead to the most interesting bits about Padilla’s interactions with his lawyer.

Mr. do Campo said that Mr. Padilla was not incommunicative, and that he expressed curiosity about what was going on in the world, liked to talk about sports and demonstrated particularly keen interest in the Chicago Bears.

But the defense lawyers’ questions often echo the questions interrogators have asked Mr. Padilla, and when that happens, he gets jumpy and shuts down, the lawyers said.

I wonder if the lawyer was allowed to tell him the Bears lost the Super Bowl?

Padilla goggles

Anyway, the actual trial should be under way next week, barring some other delay, and I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more about the Padilla case then. With today’s ruling, though, it sounds like the conditions of Padilla’s confinement will be set aside during the next court proceedings.

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Someone really should explain the NFL labor agreement to Lance Briggs

March 13, 2007

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is threatening to sit out for the season because he’s upset the team put the franchise tag on him rather than let him become a free agent. There’s not much sympathy among NFL fans for a guy who is set to make a mere $7.2 million. Over to Peter King:

Briggs is directing his anger in the wrong place. He should be angry with the NFLPA for negotiating a system in 1993 that included the right for a team to make him a franchise player and not allow him to test the open market.

This is the system in the NFL. Refusing to comply with it threatens the competitive balance that is what makes the NFL so successful to begin with. That would be like killing the goose that laid those 7.2 million golden eggs in the first place. Briggs needs to suck it up for a year with that paltry salary, and then he can go see what someone is willing to pay a selfish idiot like him. (A similar argument could be made against Eli Manning’s forcing a draft day trade, I’m aware, and I was making it a few years ago.) If Briggs thinks the franchise player system should be scrapped, he should bring it up with Gene Upshaw and advocate for that position the next time the NFL labor deal is renegotiated.

Briggs is #55, dancing with Urlacher

Part of the story is that Briggs wants to be “The Man” and realizes he never will be in Chicago, where Brian Urlacher is firmly entrenched as the alpha linebacker. It’s too bad Briggs isn’t more interested in remaining part of a dominant defense that nearly carried the Bears to a Super Bowl despite awful quarterback play, and it’s not like no one recognizes Briggs’ ability either. The guy was elected to the Pro Bowl, after all, and teams don’t put the “franchise player” tag on guys who are no good. No one would be paying any attention to this story if Briggs couldn’t play.

This all comes back to money and Lance Briggs’ desire for more of it. He’s just making noises in the media now about how he’s got a doomsday machine, hoping he can force the Bears’ hand. We’ll see if he gets his way or if the Bears can break him and get him to show up for training camp. In the mean time, Briggs isn’t exactly winning any support for the stance he’s taken.

UPDATE: Briggs has a web site.