On Monday, the mother of a U.S. citizen who was allegedly tortured at a naval base in Charleston asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other government officials on behalf of her son.
Jose Padilla, a convicted terrorist, had sued Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials over his alleged torture at the naval base, but a district court judge granted Rumsfeld immunity and dismissed the case, Padilla v. Rumsfeld. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the dismissal in January.
“If the appeals court’s ruling is allowed to stand, government officials will have a blank check to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of an American citizen in an American prison,” said Ben Wizner, the ACLU attorney who argued the case before the Fourth Circuit. “It is precisely the role of the courts to ensure that allegations of grave misconduct by Executive Branch officials receive fair adjudication. That vital role does not evaporate simply because those officials insist that their actions are too sensitive for judicial review.”
Padilla was arrested as an “enemy combatant” in May of 2002 after returning to the U.S. from Egypt. He was detained at a U.S. navy prison in South Carolina for nearly four years without charge.
According to his defense team, while in military custody Padilla was subjected to sleep deprivation, threats of execution, exposure to noxious fumes and extreme temperatures, physical abuse, and was forced stand in uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time.
“Tell me where in the Constitution it says that torturing Americans is acceptable,” Estela Lebron, Padilla's mother, said. “You don’t even treat an animal the way my son was treated. If they can do this to Jose, they can do it to anyone. I’m going to continue fighting until justice has been done for my son.”
Padilla was later transferred to the civilian justice system, where he was sentenced to 17 years in jail in 2007 for aiding a U.S.-based al Qaeda cell.
The charges said the al Qaeda cell had conspired to murder and kidnap people in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia and other countries from 1993 to 2001.