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In Padilla interrogation, no checks or balances

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Human rights activists, too, are alarmed by what they see as the continuing lack of oversight and accountability. "What happened to [Padilla] in military custody will be seen by history as one of the more shameful acts this country has taken against one of its own citizens," says Hina Shamsi, deputy director of the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First.

Padilla was held without charge in military custody at the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., for more than 3-1/2 years. He was allegedly subjected to prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, and stress positions, among other harsh interrogation tactics. Mental-health experts who have examined Padilla say the coercive techniques left him with severe psychological damage that may be permanent. Their observations are detailed in three reports filed in Padilla's criminal case.

Allegations deemed not credible

Defense Department officials say they believe Padilla is faking his psychological conditions. No similar detailed psychological examinations, however, have been conducted by the government.

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, says suggestions that Padilla is a different person after his years in military custody are not evidence of illegal abuse. Simply being held in a federal prison can change an inmate's personality, but that doesn't mean prison officials tortured him, Commander Gordon says. "I bet I would be different," he says.

In terms of oversight, Gordon says, Defense Department personnel stand ready to fully investigate any credible allegations of torture or other illegal conduct at the brig. "Credible allegations of illegal conduct are taken seriously," he says. "In this case we don't believe that to have occurred."

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