No Ordinary Princess

...anything but ordinary...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

THIS is America???

There is a disturbing piece in the New York Times this morning which happens to also be a lead story on NPR. It involves an economist from Ottawa, Maher Arar, who holds dual Canadian & Syrian citizenship.

Mr. Arar was returning from vacation in Tunisia in the fall of 2001. When he arrived for a stopover in New York, he was taken into US custody and questioned. Ultimately, Mr. Arar was "deported" to Syria despite the fact that his home and family were in Canada. He was held in Syria and tortured for a year before he was released because there was no evidence found of a connection between him and Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. This was a case of "extraordinary rendition."

The US withheld information about Mr. Arar from the Canadian government, lied to the Canadians about plans to deport him (they told Canadian officials they would return him to Switzerland, the origin of the flight that brought him to the US). I, for one, have no doubt that US officials understood full well the treatment Mr. Arar would face in Syrian custody.

Here is the link to the NYT article. Below is the full text of the article:

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case

Published: September 19, 2006

OTTAWA, Sept. 18 — A government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

The report on the engineer, Maher Arar, said American officials had apparently acted on inaccurate information from Canadian investigators and then misled Canadian authorities about their plans for Mr. Arar before transporting him to Syria.

“I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada,” Justice Dennis R. O’Connor, head of the commission, said at a news conference.

The report’s findings could reverberate heavily through the leadership of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which handled the initial intelligence on Mr. Arar that led security officials in both Canada and the United States to assume he was a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist.

The report’s criticisms and recommendations are aimed primarily at Canada’s own government and activities, rather than the United States government, which refused to cooperate in the inquiry.

But its conclusions about a case that had emerged as one of the most infamous examples of rendition — the transfer of terrorism suspects to other nations for interrogation — draw new attention to the Bush administration’s handling of detainees. And it comes as the White House and Congress are contesting legislation that would set standards for the treatment and interrogation of prisoners.

“The American authorities who handled Mr. Arar’s case treated Mr. Arar in a most regrettable fashion,” Justice O’Connor wrote in a three-volume report, not all of which was made public. “They removed him to Syria against his wishes and in the face of his statements that he would be tortured if sent there. Moreover, they dealt with Canadian officials involved with Mr. Arar’s case in a less than forthcoming manner.”

A spokesman for the United States Justice Department, Charles Miller, and a White House spokesman traveling with President Bush in New York said officials had not seen the report and could not comment.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada planned to act on the report but offered no details. “Probably in the few weeks to come we’ll be able to give you more details on that,’’ he told reporters.

The Syrian-born Mr. Arar was seized on Sept. 26, 2002, after he landed at Kennedy Airport in New York on his way home from a holiday in Tunisia. On Oct. 8, he was flown to Jordan in an American government plane and taken overland to Syria, where he says he was held for 10 months in a tiny cell and beaten repeatedly with a metal cable. He was freed in October 2003, after Syrian officials concluded that he had no connection to terrorism and returned him to Canada.

Mr. Arar’s case attracted considerable attention in Canada, where critics viewed it as an example of the excesses of the campaign against terror that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The practice of rendition has caused an outcry from human rights organizations as “outsourcing torture,” because suspects often have been taken to countries where brutal treatment of prisoners is routine.

The commission supports that view, describing a Mounted Police force that was ill-prepared to assume the intelligence duties assigned to it after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Arar, speaking at a news conference, praised the findings. “Today Justice O’Connor has cleared my name and restored my reputation,” he said. “I call on the government of Canada to accept the findings of this report and hold these people responsible.”

His lawyer, Marlys Edwardh, said the report affirmed that Mr. Arar, who has been unemployed since his return to Canada, was deported and tortured because of “a breathtakingly incompetent investigation.”

The commission found that Mr. Arar first came to police attention on Oct. 12, 2001, when he met with Abdullah Almalki, a man already under surveillance by a newly established Mounted Police intelligence unit known as Project A-O Canada. Mr. Arar has said in interviews that the meeting at Mango’s Cafe in Ottawa, and a subsequent 20-minute conversation outside the restaurant, was mostly about finding inexpensive ink jet printer cartridges.

The meeting set off a chain of actions by the police. Investigators obtained a copy of Mr. Arar’s rental lease. After finding Mr. Almalki listed as an emergency contact, they stepped up their investigation of Mr. Arar. At the end of that month, the police asked customs officials to include Mr. Arar and his wife on a “terrorist lookout” list, which would subject them to more intensive question when re-entering Canada.

However, the commission found that the designation should have only been applied to people who are members or associates of terrorist networks. Neither the police nor customs had any such evidence of that concerning Mr. Arar or his wife, an economist.

From there, the Mounted Police asked that the couple be included in a database that alerts United States border officers to suspect individuals. The police described Mr. Arar and his wife as, the report said, “Islamic extremists suspected of being linked to the al Qaeda movement.”

The commission said that all who testified before it accepted that the description was false.

According to the inquiry’s finding, the Mounted Police gave the F.B.I. and other American authorities material from Project A-O Canada, which included suggestions that Mr. Arar had visited Washington around Sept. 11 and had refused to cooperate with the Canadian police. The handover of the data violated the force’s own guidelines, but was justified on the basis that such rules no longer applied after 2001.

In July 2002, the Mounted Police learned that Mr. Arar and his family were in Tunisia, and incorrectly concluded that they had left Canada permanently.

On Sept. 26, 2002, the F.B.I. called Project A-O and told the Canadian police that Mr. Arar was scheduled to arrive in about one hour from Zurich. The F.B.I. also said it planned to question Mr. Arar and then send him back to Switzerland. Responding to a fax from the F.B.I., the Mounted Police provided the American investigators with a list of questions for Mr. Arar. Like the other information, it included many false claims about Mr. Arar, the commission found.

The Canadian police “had no idea of what would eventually transpire,’’ the commission said. “It did not occur to them that the American authorities were contemplating sending Mr. Arar to Syria.”

While the F.B.I. and the Mounted Police kept up their communications about Mr. Arar, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs was not told about his detention for almost three days. Its officials, acting on calls from worried relatives, had been trying to find him. Similarly, American officials denied Mr. Arar’s requests to speak with the Canadian Consulate in New York, a violation of international agreements.

Evidence presented to the commission, said Paul J. J. Cavalluzzo, its lead counsel, showed that the F.B.I. continued to keep its Canadian counterparts in the dark even while an American jet was carrying Mr. Arar to Jordan. The panel found that American officials “believed — quite correctly — that, if informed, the Canadians would have serious concerns about the plan to remove Mr. Arar to Syria.”

Mr. Arar arrived in Syria on Oct. 9, 2002, and was imprisoned there until Oct. 5, 2003. It took Canadian officials, however, until Oct. 21 to locate him in Syria. The commission concludes that Syrian officials at first denied knowing Mr. Arar’s whereabouts to hide the fact that he was being tortured. It says that, among other things, he was beaten with a shredded electrical cable until he was disoriented.

American officials have not discussed the case publicly. But in an interview last year, a former official said on condition of anonymity that the decision to send Mr. Arar to Syria had been based chiefly on the desire to get more information about him and the threat he might pose. The official said Canada did not intend to hold him if he returned home.

Mr. Arar said he appealed a recent decision by a federal judge in New York dismissing the suit he brought against the United States. The report recommends that the Canadian government, which is also being sued by Mr. Arar, offer him compensation and possibly a job.

Mr. Arar recently moved to Kamloops, British Columbia, where his wife found a teaching position.

So, this is America? This is the way my country operates nowadays?

The evidence against Mr. Arar was flimsy at best. The Canadian government would never have agreed to transporting him to Syria. The US government lied about his disposition. Syria, which is an authoritarian regime with one of the worst records on human rights in the Middle East, which fosters the very Islamic extremism Bush rails against on a daily basis these days, organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations which seek to thwart the stated US goals for freedom and democracy in the Middle East...this is the ally the US government chooses to gather information through interrogation of suspected terrorists, based on the flimsiest of evidence.

The Geneva Conventions

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

Is there any question why this administration should not be trusted to define the treatment of detainees? This administration cannot be trusted to intepret Article III of the Geneva Conventions. Detention with no rights to counsel, no visitation. Trials with secret evidence. Torture. Collusion with totalitarian regimes. Lying to other nations and international agencies. Threats.


This is not my America.

I want my America back!

tags: detainees / extraordinary rendition / human rights / torture / US politics / world politics


Blogger should-be-working said...

On an unrelated topic, does anyone besides me find it a bit fishy that gas prices are dropping right around election time?

19/9/06 10:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

You know, I hadn't even considered that, SBW, but you're absolutely correct. How mighty convenient!

19/9/06 4:01 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

Oh my lord Cher, what the hell is the world coming to? Governments as a whole are just arseholes and should all be sent somewhere to have the shit beaten out of them for a change.

How long do you think it would take them to pick their socks up if they had to take a dose of their own medicine?

Yep, it must be nice to have power (TO ABUSE) money to spend and no conscience.

And we are allied with USA? That SCARES me. You guys went to war and we went too. And I'm sorry to say that as far as most Aussies are concerned... you guys started it.... go finish it BY YOURSELVES. We want our troops home and as far away from all this bullshit as possible.

I watched alot of the 9/11 documentaries and I honestly believe that it was one big set up. Bush just did it to get to the oil. I'm probably wrong.

But think of it this way... a man who sends or allows a perfectly innocent man to SYRIA to be tortured.... do you think killing all those 9/11 victims would really bother him? Just a means to an end.

And when ANY human life means so little to us all, we should all be ashamed of ourselves. What are we teaching our kids? What sort of world are we leaving for them? Our governments are put there by US, and they treat us like cattle!

puff, pant, puff, inhale, exhale.

Sorry for the rant but I'm in a mood and a half today. Nothing I said was meant to be offensive, so dont anyone start abusing me okay?

Love Yvonne

19/9/06 6:06 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Sad story. Good links, Cheryl. I particularly enjoyed the discovery of "0ldspeak" Looks like a good publication. I shall visit it some more along with the Rutherford Institute. Thanks.

Regarding your recent comment on my blog..I just wanted you to know that my mom was an RN for her last 25 years before retirement. I have the utmost respect for you all. Unfortunately the people I have been trying to deal with recently have been a difficult bunch, but I do try to express my respect for this challenging and often physically demanding profession. I am trying to be patient but it's so hard to manage all this from 2000 miles away!
Thanks so much for your kind thoughts, I really appreciate it. :)

20/9/06 12:08 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

No offense taken, I'm sure, Von. We all need to vent a little at times. Why do you think I blog?

Watch out in Oz...from the little I know about Howard, he sounds like a fledgling George W. Bush.

Thanks for sharing this, Von!

20/9/06 5:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...


Thanks for that. I'm looking forward to having some time to check out the Rutherford Institute more soon, too.

Your mom having been a nurse makes me sad, too. If they treat one of their own that way, how do they treat non-colleagues? I'm just glad she has you to look after her and glad you're able and willing.

My best to you and your family.

20/9/06 5:02 AM  
Blogger should-be-working said...

You know Cheryl, I stick by my guns and say that we won't truly realize how horrific this presidency is until about 20 years from now when we ask ourselves, "How did we let this happen?" I know I'll be asking myself that question a lot.

20/9/06 4:55 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

And I, the eternal optimist, will stick to my hope that we will rise up now, right now, and scream, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

I hope the damage isn't too great. I hope it can be fixed and soon.

I have a lot of hopes, huh?

20/9/06 8:08 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

Howard is not a fledgling anything Cher. He's a patsy and a whimp. He does whatever Bush tells him to. Personally I'd be happy to lock them in a cell and they can be butt buddies to their hearts content WITHOUT fucking the world up the butt at the same time.

21/9/06 7:22 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Wow, Von! And you say you're not political!

21/9/06 9:16 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

I'm not political in the sense that I am unable to understand all the intricacies involved in it etc etc. I just wish Howard would stop fucking up the land I love. And most of the dumb shit he has done lately has been howled down by all aussie's... and he still does it.

There was a very funny bit on a show we have here called David Tench. Tench said that the thing in Howards ear is not a hearing aid. I's a speaker that lets Bush tell Howard what to do. I loved that!

Pfffffffft headache and backache from hell. I need to go find a bone or a tree to gnaw on before I start screaming at someone to make it better.


22/9/06 6:19 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Believe me, Von...I don't know much about the intricacies of US politics either. I'm just not afraid to blurt out something stupid anymore. I'm old enough not to care now.

Great Howard joke! It wouldn't surprise me, he sounds like a GWB knock-off.


22/9/06 7:02 PM  

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