Errol Louis is a local liberal columnist for the New York Sun. Though I recognize we’re in a war, I’m sympathetic with his case that the executive has overstepped the limits of its authority in a dangerous way:

Jose Padilla, an American citizen, has been held in a U.S. military prison for more than year. He has been charged with no crime, but is barred from speaking with his family, his court-appointed attorney, the press, or anyone else. His physical condition is unknown to all but his captors….

Last year, Attorney General Ashcroft announced that Mr. Padilla would have fewer rights than his fellow citizens because he is a so-called “enemy combatant”–a term of art with no legal meaning. “Our interest is not in trying him and punishing him,” Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld told reporters. “Our interest is in finding out what he knows…”

And that, more or less, is the sum of the government’s case–at least, the portion that the world is allowed to know. [These men]… have decided to terminate the rights of a citizen without any kind of hearing or procedure whatsoever. Mr. Padilla has never been given a chance to plead his innocence. And the rest of us, including Mr. Padilla’s lawyer, are supposed to meekly acquiesce.

Remember that Mr. Padilla is a U.S. citizen arrested at Chicago O’Hare airport, not a Taliban fighter captured in battle against American troops. He is due all the protections afforded by the Constitution, such as the right to legal counsel, due process, a speedy trial, and the chance to confront his accusers.

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