Padilla was convicted for a crime that was manufactured all along the way. He was, of course, the original "dirty bomber." That claim by the Bush administration was a political claim and Padilla an instrument in the construction of a fear campaign. This is not to say that Padilla is not guilty of something. It is to say that the dirty bomber claim was bullshit, and this was known from the outset only by the administration. Despite this, Padilla was tortured in a classic bogus ticking time bomb ("dirty bomb") justification for the practice. Why?
Ultimately, as the US government went from court to court trying to find an accusation that would legally stick - they needed the conviction again for political reasons - they finally constructed the accusation for which Padilla was convicted: conspiracy to commit terrorist acts (he filled out an application form... literally). Conspiracy charges are often last resort claims that amount to "he was connected to bad things, but we're not exactly sure how beyond circumstantial evidence."
Okay, Padilla is probably a bad man. Nonetheless, at this point, we're far away from dirty bombs. We have a convict whose mind is now completely reshaped by American torture into an instrument by which the administration could construct the legal charges and achieve the political goal. In many ways, the Padilla case is a concrete instance of the reproduction of the enemy that I've warned about in the past, as well as Horton's point below about tyranny (see this earlier post and link). Our ability to distinguish between the real and artifice is again severely compromised.
Scott Horton at Harper's No Comment has one of the better posts I've seen on Padilla.
Reading accounts of the treatment of Padilla and the psychiatrist’s description of what remains today of the battered spirit of Jose Padilla, it is clear that the Bush Administration has fully availed itself of these concepts. The Jacoby Declaration makes clear that “breaking” the subject is in fact the object of the process. The psychiatrists’ report shows that Padilla was essentially brainwashed. He could not really even mount a defense to the charges against him because he loved George W. Bush and he found it physically impossible to oppose him.
And the charges brought against Padilla are “thought crimes.” He is accused of thinking bad thoughts about America and the Bush Administration.
Note this perspective from Lokywoky, writing at Jesus' General:
The thing I found most disturbing was this: ...that Mr. Padilla still maintained that if he could just let the Commander in Chief know what had been happening to him that the CIC would understand and get him out of there...
Mr. Padilla is a US Citizen, and regardless of his past, he still believes in the basic fairness of the OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, and that if his situation could be heard, fairness would release him from this captivity. Even in the face of the treatment he has been subjected to, he still believes in the fairness of our institutions including the executive branch - and the occupant thereof.
We must not forget, although all the rest of us have been listening and been inundated with the daily list of scandals, cover-ups, whopping mistakes, lies, obfuscations, deceptions, manipulations, gaffes, spin and distortions coming out of this executive branch by and on behalf of George Bush and Dick Cheney, Mr. Padilla is probably been one of the few adults on the planet who knows nothing of all of this. Mr. Padilla has been kept in solitary confinement - absolutely no contact with the outside world - since he was arrested. He has not seen a TV, heard a radio, read a newspaper or book, or been able to talk with anyone other than his jailors and tormenters.
So the part that almost makes me cry is that this man, who has been treated so abominably, still believes in the integrity of the Office of the President. And that the person sitting in the White House MUST be a person of fairness and justice, and that somehow he must not know what is happening to Mr. Padilla because surely if he did, it would not continue to happen.