U.S. District Court Reiterates U.S. Terror Suspect’s Right to Counsel

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Thursday, May 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On March 11, 2003, U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey affirmed a prior order that Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen accused of conspiring with the al Qaeda terrorist network to detonate a radioactive bomb in the U.S., must be allowed access to counsel despite the U.S. Government’s argument that such meetings would interfere with its intelligence gathering efforts. On May 8, 2003, Padilla was arrested in Chicago as he returned from a trip to Pakistan. After an initial appearance in New York, the U.S. brought Padilla to a Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina, claiming he is an enemy combatant. The court rejected the arguments in a sealed declaration of Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency that permitting Padilla to consult with counsel interfere and setback the U.S. Government’s interrogation techniques with Padilla. In part, the court reasoned that the Jacoby forecast was speculative. After the hearing the U.S. Government did not directly reveal whether it would appeal the ruling. Although the affirmation of a U.S. person’s right to access to counsel is a potentially inportant victory for defense counsel, it remains to be seen whether other U.S. courts will take the same position, especially in view of more restrictive holdings with respect to other enemy combatant detainees.