WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The
US Supreme Court refused to tackle a complaint an American citizen who
claims he was tortured while held as an "enemy combatant" and wanted sue
current and former government officials.
Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member and Muslim convert, was
convicted in 2007 of aiding a homegrown Al-Qaeda cell and later
sentenced to 17 years in jail after being detained without charge for
nearly four years.
He alleges it was during this time that he was subjected to a range
of abuse and subsequently sought to sue former defense secretary Donald
Rumsfeld and current Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, among other senior US
The Supreme Court, without comment, affirmed an earlier appeals court
ruling that said Rumsfeld and Panetta are immune from the suit for
actions taken in their official capacity, and that Padilla's detention
was a matter of national security policy under the purview of the
executive and legislative branches.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had appealed the
lower court's ruling together with Padilla's mother, Estela Lebron, on
Monday expressed dismay at the US high court's decision.
"The Supreme Court's refusal to consider Jose Padilla's case leaves
in place a blank check for government officials to commit any abuse in
the name of national security, even the brutal torture of an American
citizen in an American prison," said Ben Wizner, the ACLU's head counsel
on the case.
"To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture regime has received his day in court."
Padilla has long been a symbol of the George W. Bush administration's
alleged legal overreach following the September 11 attacks, when
hundreds of so-called "enemy combatants" -- the vast majority of them
foreigners captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- were detained without
formal charges or trial.
He had gone to Egypt in the 1990s to study and later traveled to
Afghanistan. He was arrested in 2002 as he returned to the United States
for an alleged "dirty bomb" plot.
Padilla is serving his time in a maximum-security prison in the western US state of Colorado.
The ACLU says Padilla was prevented from speaking with his lawyer or
family for two of the four years he was held in a South Carolina navy
brig, in conditions similar to those at the US prison facility in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
It says he was placed in stress positions for several hours at a
time, deprived of sleep, beaten and threatened with torture and death.
US authorities had initially justified his detention by saying he was
an "enemy combatant" who had planned to explode a radioactive bomb in
the United States, a charge that was later dropped.
The Supreme Court is also considering another appeal by Padilla,
which protests a 2011 ruling by an appeals court calling for his prison
sentence to be increased. It is expected to make a decision by the end
of the month.