How Is Jose Padilla Handling Life Behind Bars?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, March 3, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The use of the war powers has been extremely limited. And I think in regard to individuals in the United States, less than the people you could count on one hand.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: John Ashcroft talking about some of those men, enemy combatants (search), like Jose Padilla (search). Jose Padilla met with his lawyer for the first time today. Padilla was arrested in Chicago in 2002 accused of being part of a plot to set off a dirty bomb in this country on behalf of Al Qaeda (search).

Earlier I spoke with Padilla's attorney, Donna Newman. She spent three hours with him today at a naval brig in South Carolina. I asked her, so, how is Jose Padilla's condition?


DONNA NEWMAN, JOSE PADILLA'S LAWYER: He did look basically the same as when I had left him. As far as his mental health, I am not a mental health expert. I cannot tell you. I do know that the literature is replete with reports from psychiatrists and psychologists that say ...

GIBSON: Well, what did he say, did he say, Ms. Newman, you are my lawyer. Get me out of here. This is horrible. I'm being tortured, or was he fairly placid?

NEWMAN: No, I was precluded by the Department of Defense from going into conversations about his conditions. So I couldn't get to that kind of conversations. As I said, we were restricted in even the questions that we asked him. So we didn't get there. But as far as whether or not being incommunicado for so long has affected him, can I only tell you what the literature says. And without question it would affect anybody to be held so long incommunicado, whether specifically him, I'm not the mental health expert here.

GIBSON: I would just assume that this is a guy that doesn't even know he was represented. He's being held obviously against his will. He hasn't had any court dates. Whether that's a right or wrong thing, he must be confused. Was he surprised to see you? Was he effusive? Was he thankful? How did he behave?

NEWMAN: He was very thankful, but he wasn't surprised because he was told yesterday and he was given all the documents. We sent him down over 20 pounds of documents. That's how much has been filed. And he had a chance to review some of that. He wasn't surprised, but he was certainly very grateful for our efforts and he was very happy to see us.

GIBSON: Did he ask you to send any messages to his family or anything of that sort?

NEWMAN: Absolutely. We had gone down there with a letter from his mom and he was thrilled with that. And, of course, he sent his love to his entire family and his mother, of course.

GIBSON: Did he profess his innocence?

NEWMAN: It would not be something I was allowed to get into, as I explained to you. We were precluded from certain areas. In addition, it was not an attorney-client interview.

GIBSON: What were the physical conditions like? This is a military brig. You can describe it?

NEWMAN: I think we're not allowed. We are also under restrictions on what we can say to the press and that's one of the things I am not allowed to speak to.

GIBSON: This a very unusual case. I mean, what is being said or what is being alleged about Jose Padilla is that he was an enemy combatant on the field of battle and that that field of battle was here in the United States of America. I mean, theoretically ...

NEWMAN: I understand what you are saying - however, you are making a phantom leap here. You are putting the cart before the horse. You are assuming he's an enemy combatant. That issue must be resolved by a court. If not, what you have is a president say so. We say he's an enemy combatant, therefore, he is an enemy combatant. Therefore, we can detain him forever. What you have is circular reasoning. What you need here is before you put your foot and we can, you must do the before. What is he? Who determines that?

GIBSON: OK, but you said you did not discuss the facts of the matter with your client.

NEWMAN: I couldn't. I couldn't.

GIBSON: What was he on the day he was apprehended?

NEWMAN: That is what we need to get forward. But we cannot do that until I have an attorney-client meeting. And that, by the way, is not before the Supreme Court because the government has gotten in our way.


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