Jose Padilla may not know it yet, but his case could be a watershed in the battle between civil libertarians and the Administration over antiterrorism policies. Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested on U.S. soil and accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb, has been held incommunicado as an "enemy combatant" in a Navy brig in South Carolina for 19 months and has been denied access to a lawyer or relatives. An appellate panel in New York ruled, 2 to 1, that the President has no authority to hold him as an enemy combatant indefinitely and without counsel. If he is not charged or declared a material witness, the court said, Padilla must be released within 30 days. The Administration has argued that its treatment of Padilla is necessary to exploit his intelligence value. But a senior law-enforcement official tells TIME that Padilla "was cooperative for maybe half a day" but hasn't been a productive source of information since.
In a second adverse ruling for the Administration, a federal appellate court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo cannot be denied access to the U.S. court system. And the Justice Department's inspector general issued a report detailing physical and verbal abuses by prison guards of immigrants rounded up after Sept. 11. Videotapes show guards at New York's Metropolitan Detention Center slamming detainees' heads into walls. Allegedly, conversations with lawyers were illegally recorded. The Justice Department is investigating the alleged abuses.
--By Viveca Novak