Set Padilla Free

From Holden:

The Bush assministration has been slapped down – again – for detaining Jose Padilla without charges.

A federal judge in South Carolina ruled yesterday that the Bush administration lacks statutory and constitutional authority to indefinitely imprison without criminal charges a U.S. citizen who was designated an “enemy combatant.”

Rejecting a series of arguments put forward by the government, District Court Judge Henry F. Floyd said the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla — who the administration has said is a terrorist supporter of al Qaeda — is illegal and that Padilla must be released from a naval brig in Charleston, S.C., within 45 days or charged with a crime.

In a strongly worded 23-page ruling, Floyd said “to do otherwise would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country’s constitutional tradition, but it would also be a betrayal of this Nation’s commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and our individual liberties.”

Judge Floyd, a Bush appointee, really knows how to twist the knife.

Using a phrase often levied by conservatives to denigrate liberal judges, Floyd — who was appointed by President Bush to the federal bench in 2003 — accused the administration of engaging in “judicial activism” when it asserted in court pleadings that Bush has blanket authority under the Constitution to detain Americans on U.S. soil who are suspected of taking or planning actions against the country.

Floyd said the government presented no law supporting this contention and that just because Bush and his appointees say Padilla’s detention was consistent with U.S. laws and the president’s war powers, that did not make it so. “Moreover, such a statement is deeply troubling. If such a position were ever adopted by the courts, it would totally eviscerate the limits placed on Presidential authority to protect the citizenry’s individual liberties.”