Defend José Padilla, and the Constitution

Regarding the Feb. 16 article, "Was José Padilla tortured by US military?": José Padilla's lawyers claim that during his detention he was repeatedly tortured and psychologically abused. Knowing what we do now about Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and extraordinary renditions, such mistreatment is not just plausible but probable.

The Justice Department claims it has incriminating evidence about Mr. Padilla that the public cannot see. It says that revealing the interrogation techniques used on him would handicap the United States in the war on terrorism. And it insists that the details of Padilla's confinement must be kept out of his trial because they might inflame jurors.

I don't know whether Padilla is guilty or not. What I do know is that as a US citizen he was entitled to be charged at the time of his arrest and tried expeditiously – not by the president and his circle of advisers, but by a jury of peers. The government should not be allowed to disregard the Constitution in the name of national security. Padilla is an American, and he was – and is – entitled to his rights.
Robert J. Inlow
Charlottesville, Va.

Slave owners deserve hard labor

In response to the Feb. 16 article, "Antislavery efforts imperiled in Brazil": If President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is serious about eradicating what he has called "Brazil's shame," he should push hard for mandatory prison sentences for slaveholders. The current penalty – fines – has no teeth, as employers who are caught merely have to do what they should have done all along: pay some money. But, of course, in most cases, these criminals are not caught and never have to pay. So to them, it's worth the risk.

Since the death penalty is not practiced in Brazil, slaveholders should be punished with life in prison with hard labor. This sentence would give them a taste of their own medicine: a backbreaking job and no pay.

Having said that, I must comment that I actually agree with the new law. Field auditors should have the right to rescue individuals whom they believe are being held against their will, but they should have no authority to level fines or any other types of penalties. Guilt or innocence should be determined solely by a court of law.
Greg Solomon
Kansas City, Kan.

There are no perfect environmentalists

Regarding the Feb. 15 article, "To cool Earth, just scrub the carbon": I was puzzled by various responses to Sir Richard Branson's competition to find a way to remove carbon from the air. The Financial Times made a statement that "environmental groups pointed to the irony of such an offer from the owner of an airline." I fail to see the irony there. As the responsible party for a fair amount of pollution, Sir Richard is searching for ways to mitigate the impact his company has on the environment. To me that seems fitting and proper.

The Monitor article itself says that "experts say that clean alternatives to jet fuel are decades away," yet I don't hear anybody advocating a moratorium on air travel. That being the case, it is certainly better to seek offsets to the negative impacts of air travel than to do nothing. Furthermore, Branson is concurrently investing in the search for clean fuel.

If irony exists in Branson's challenge, it is no more ironic than what any of us do to be kind to the environment however we can, while we continue to drive gasoline-powered cars and fly in airplanes.
Lucy Bair Goodell
Concord, Calif.

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