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In Padilla interrogation, no checks or balances

Oversight of the executive branch regarding treatment of terror detainees remains inadequate, say legal analysts.

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When admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed complained in a Guantánamo Bay hearing earlier this year that he'd been tortured by US interrogators, the presiding military officer assured him the charges would be investigated.

Two US senators who watched the hearing later praised the officer's action. "Allegations of prisoner mistreatment must be taken seriously and properly investigated," Sens. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina and Carl Levin (D) of Michigan said in a joint statement. "To do otherwise would reflect poorly on our nation."

In contrast, when alleged Al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla, a US citizen, claimed in 2006 that he had been tortured, no similar effort was undertaken.

No senators called for an investigation or a hearing. No one promised a Defense Department inspector general inquiry or a Justice Department probe. The federal judge then presiding over Mr. Padilla's criminal case in Miami refused to permit further inquiry into the torture allegation, and instead ordered Padilla's lawyers not to raise the issue during trial.

The difference between Mr. Mohammed's experience and Padilla's experience highlights a near total lack of independent oversight involving the secret military detention and interrogation of a US citizen on American soil.

It is unlikely anyone outside a select group of military officials knows the full story of exactly what was done, or wasn't done, to Padilla in the name of national security.

But instead of aggressively examining the torture allegation, the Bush administration has fought hard to keep Padilla's treatment in military custody veiled in secrecy.

"The treatment of Padilla ranks as one of the most serious abuses after 9/11," says Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School in Washington. "This is a case that would have shocked the Framers. This is precisely what many of the drafters of the Constitution had in mind when they tried to create a system of checks and balances."


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