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Sorry to be a downer, but this NPR report on Jose Padilla is easily one of the more disturbing things I've read all day. Padilla, as we've learned, has basically gone insane during his time in U.S. military custody, after four years of stress positions and "total sensory deprivation." But here's the government's defense:

The government maintains that whatever happened to Padilla during his detention is irrelevant, since no information obtained during that time is being used in the criminal case against him.

Er... so there was real no point in holding him indefinitely, without charges? Is that what's being said here? Not exactly:

Indeed, there are even some within the government who think it might be best if Padilla were declared incompetent and sent to a psychiatric prison facility. As one high-ranking official put it, "the objective of the government always has been to incapacitate this person."

Digby points out that the Soviet Union had a term for this: Psikhushka, psychiatric hospitals, which were used to "isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally." Here's Wikipedia: "The 'treatment' included various forms of restraint, electric shocks, a range of drugs... that cause long lasting side effects, and sometimes involved beatings." As with Padilla, the objective was always to incapacitate the person. But hey, comparing U.S. policy with Soviet Russia is overly shrill so maybe we should just drop it.

--Bradford Plumer