In an unsigned one-page order, the Supreme Court has approved the
transfer of Jose Padilla — once the “dirty bomber” but now just the
“whatever” — from a Navy brig in South Carolina to a federal prison in

This is, perhaps only temporarily, a victory for the Bush
administration and, believe it or not, a real break for Padilla, who
has been held in solitary confinement for the last three and a half

It may not be such a good thing for the rest of us,
because now the Supreme Court may not have to rule on the question of
whether the president, in time of war or national emergency and solely
on his say-so, has the power to imprison an American citizen
incommunicado and indefinitely _ no lawyer, no charges, no trial.

When it looked like Padilla would get his challenge to his detention
before the high court, the Bush administration quickly charged him in
federal criminal court _ not with plotting to detonate a radiological
“dirty bomb” in the United States, as the administration first said,
and not with plotting to blow up apartment buildings in the United
States, as the administration later said, but with plotting to raise
money and recruits to “murder, kidnap and maim” overseas.

shifting rationale for Padilla’s detention and the clear attempt to
duck a high-court challenge outraged the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals, considered the most conservative and pro-administration of the
appeals panels.

In an unusual rebuke, the 4th Circuit refused to
approve Padilla’s “11th-hour transfer” from the military to the
criminal-justice system, and said the administration was leaving the
clear impression that it had held Padilla all these years “by mistake.”

The Supreme Court may yet hear the case, although the administration argues that it is now moot since Padilla has been charged.

In any event, in the long torturous legal battle since the alleged
dirty bomber was arrested in Chicago in May 2002, one voice has been
missing _ Padilla’s. He will finally get to speak for himself.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)