Several of the initial sources of information about Padilla were subjected to waterboarding and other coercive and controversial interrogation techniques at secret CIA interrogation centers overseas. Human rights experts consider these techniques a form of torture that can render provided information unreliable.
There is no allegation that Padilla was waterboarded. But his lawyers say he was subject to “a vicious program of interrogation.”
He was confined to an isolation cell for a 21-month regime of sleep and sensory deprivation. The cell had no mattress, blanket, sheet, or pillow. He was frequently shackled in painful stress positions and threatened with immediate execution unless he gave a full confession of his alleged involvement with Al-Qaeda, according of Padilla’s lawyers.
Padilla’s treatment by the Bush administration attracted international attention and raised fundamental issues about a president’s power to strip a US citizen of his or her constitutional rights by designating him an enemy combatant – even when that citizen was arrested on American soil.
That issue has not reached the US Supreme Court, in part because Padilla was moved backed into the criminal justice system on the eve of the high court considering whether to hear Padilla’s case. The action mooted the constitutional issues raised by Padilla’s lawyers.
Padilla was later convicted in a Miami trial of conspiring to provide material support to Al-Qaeda, but the government offered no evidence at trial of what, if anything, Padilla did for the terror group. He is serving a 17-year prison sentence. His conviction is under appeal.
The civil lawsuit in South Carolina seeks to hold US officials accountable for Padilla’s treatment and the conditions of his confinement during the three and a half years he was held without charge at the brig.