The lawyer for suspected dirty bomb plotter Jose Padilla was in court today, pressing for her client to be returned to the criminal justice system. Attorney Donna Newman was appointed to represent Padilla before he was named an "enemy combatant" and put under the jurisdiction of the Defense Department.
Newman is arguing that her client's detention by the U.S. military is unconstitutional. Because of the unusual nature of this case — where an American citizen arrested inside the United States for allegedly plotting a terrorist attack is being held essentially as a prisoner of war — no one really knows what could come out of Newman's motion.
But the case has sparked a huge national discussion of the nature of civil rights in this new age of terrorism. Does the national security crisis justify bending the rules in dealing with suspects? Or is the government heading down a dangerous road, where the assumptions of innocent until proven guilty and due process are made a relic of the past?
Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School
This program aired on June 12, 2002.