There were so many reasons to be appalled by President Bush's decision to detain people illegally and subject them to mental and physical abuse. The unfolding case of Jose Padilla reminds us of one of the most important: mistreating a prisoner makes it hard, if not impossible, for a real court to judge whether he has committed real crimes.
The Padilla case, like the Hamdi one, brings up a lot of questions about the execution of this administration's "war on terror." These are questions that I've previously addressed in more detail, but one of those issues is the question of indefinite incarceration without recourse to a court of law.
Of course, when the White House was about to have to argue their case for holding US citizens indefinitely, there was a sudden change of heart that led to Padilla being released into the criminal law system on the same day legal briefs were due to the Supreme Court.
For a more in-depth look at the question of "enemy combatants" and indefinite detention, take a look at Joseph Lelyveld's piece, No Exit, in the New York Review of Books.