by Mentarch | 6/07/2008 11:54:00 AM
A newly declassified report reveals true motivations for sending Maher Arar to Syria - where he was tortured - as the U.S. reopens the probe into his mistreatment (h/t) (emphasis added):




High-level U.S. officials intervened to make sure Maher Arar was sent to Syria instead of Canada because they feared the porous border would not keep him "from returning to the United States for nefarious purposes," according to a previously secret internal U.S. probe released yesterday.

Richard Skinner, head of internal investigations at the Department of Homeland Security, also told a congressional hearing yesterday that he was reopening the probe into Mr. Arar's deportation because new classified information had been received in recent weeks that cast doubt on the conclusions that exonerated U.S. officials for sending him to Syria.

"We have reopened our review into the Mr. Arar matter because, less than a month ago, we received additional information that contradicts one of the conclusions," Mr. Skinner told the committee hearing.
Well, well, well ... a cover-up of fear-, paranoid- and incompetence-driven mistakes and expediency-hasted malicious intent, which included the interventions of "high officials" in the White House? Who could have ever even suspected something like this? Yeah - right (emphasis added):
The report is heavily redacted and paints an incomplete but compelling picture of high-level intervention that overruled the assessments of anti-terrorism agents, ignored warnings that Mr. Arar would likely be tortured in Syria and ran roughshod over legal safeguards in a rush to get him on a chartered plane out of the country before the deportation could be stopped.

(...) The U.S. report released yesterday shows a U.S. database flagged border agents that Mr. Arar was flying to New York, dubbing him "armed and dangerous" and a "special interest" alien. Yet after being initially detained and interrogated by a special Joint Terrorism Task Force agency at the airport, they concluded they "had no interest in Arar as an investigative subject."

What reversed that conclusion was the still obscure high-level meeting on Friday, Oct. 4, 2002, when senior officials in Washington determined that not only would Mr. Arar be removed from the United States, but he would be sent to Syria and imprisoned, not allowed to return to Canada. Larry Thomson, then the acting attorney-general, signed an order that rejected Mr. Arar's request to return to Canada because it would be "prejudicial to the interest of the United States."
Got it? What we have here yet once again is more of the Bush administration legalese maneuvering to circumvent/bypass due process, all in order to act according to their petty, paranoid fears.

In the end, Mr. Arar's always-consistent account of those events which lead to his rendition to Syria (instead of deportation to Canada) is finally being vindicated (emphasis and links added):
The timeline revealed in yesterday's U.S. report is broadly consistent with a chronology Mr. Arar has posted on his website and the findings of a Canadian government commission led by Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor.

(...) The U.S. report finds that the circumstances of Mr. Arar's detention, from being taken into custody while changing planes at New York's John F. Kennedy airport on Friday, Sept. 27, 2002, until his removal to the Middle East, on Tuesday, Oct. 8, was "questionable," but not clearly illegal.

The report notes, Mr. Arar could have been sent to several places. "Canada was also an option and would have been a more efficient country of return both logistically and economically," it said.

(...) Arrested while passing through the United States to Canada, Mr. Arar was taken from JFK airport and sent directly to a "special handling unit" at a detention centre. The isolation "contributed to his difficulties in obtaining counsel and advice on his immigration case," the report finds.
And the rest, as they say, is history:
Sept. 27, 2002: The Immigration and Naturalization Service scuttles a plan to send Maher Arar to Switzerland, the country he had last transited through on his journey from Tunisia to Canada. The FBI manoeuvres to keep him from calling the Canadian consulate so it can investigate.

Oct. 1: The INS says it gives Mr. Arar a form indicating he has five days to respond to his removal, but the urgency of the matter is never clearly communicated.

Oct. 3: A Canadian consular official visits Mr. Arar in custody.

Oct. 4: Mr. Arar, a dual Syrian-Canadian citizen, requests he be sent to Canada, and expresses fears about torture in Syria. U.S. officials decide they would prefer to send him to the Middle East.

Oct. 5: An immigration lawyer visits Mr. Arar and recalls him being "emotional and distraught." The lawyer does not know he has only one day left to respond to a bid to remove him from the United States.

Oct. 6: At 5 p.m., officials leave messages notifying Mr. Arar's lawyers that an important hearing for him is about to take place. The messages are left on their office voicemails during the weekend. At 9 p.m., officials begin a six-hour interview with Mr. Arar. They leave unpersuaded that he is at risk of torture in Syria, even though other officials have already concluded that he very much is.

Oct. 7: The acting U.S. Attorney-General turns down Mr. Arar's request to return to Canada as "prejudicial to the interest of the United States" because of the "porous" border.

Oct. 8: Mr. Arar is taken out of his cell and brought to a private jet. En route, he is served with a form declaring him permanently inadmissible to the United States.
And thereafter he was renditioned to Syria, where he was tortured.

Maher Arara was denied American justice in 2006 when he sought compensation from the U.S. government for his mistreatment. The main reason cited by the judge who dismissed Arar's lawsuit was "the need for national security and secrecy".

Except that secrecy here was used to cover-up wrongdoing.

Considering that the truth is finally coming out, I wonder if Mr. Arar now has grounds to appeal this unjust and near-sighted 2006 decision or to re-initiate a lawsuit based on these "new findings".

Maher Arar already got Canadian justice - and deservedly so.

He may yet get American justice as well.

At least, I do hope so.


(Cross-posted from APOV).

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2 Comments:


Blogger Jeremy Young on 6/08/2008 1:04 PM:

Excellent post, Mentarch -- and this is the reason we can't simply pardon all the malefactors in the Bush Administration, as Pete suggested in a previous thread. This isn't like Nixon and his thugs, who broke lots of laws but didn't really hurt anybody -- or even like Iran-Contra, which helped foreign forces we weren't supposed to be supporting. From Arar to Katrina to Abu Ghraib, Bush and his minions have hurt real people -- and for that, they need to be brought to justice. That's what I'm afraid Obama won't do, and why I continue to have serious qualms about his candidacy.

 

Blogger Mentarch on 6/08/2008 8:17 PM:

Aye - Obama must commit himself in this matter ...