Friday, January 26, 2007

Maher Arar should not come to U.S.

Maher Arar is back in the news. It seems our ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, thinks Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day should mind his own business when it comes to who can and cannot enter the U.S. [CBC]

Day wants Arar, who was detained by the US in 2002 and rendered to Syria for torture, to be able to go to the US if he wants. Wilkins says, "It's a little presumptuous for him to say who the United States can and cannot allow into our country." It's a little presumptous for the US to be going around the world kidnapping people with no links to terrorism and sending them to third countries for torture, too, but that's different, I guess.

Last week Day met with Michael Chertoff who told him that Arar would just have to try and get in to see if he'd be allowed to enter. Chertoff said, "I'm simply going to say that this becomes a relevant issue only if and when somebody presents themself to come into the United States. Otherwise, it's kind of a hypothetical issue."

Strangley, he said this after he and Alberto "water board" Gonzales had come out and said that Arar would remain on a terrorist watch list. Nothing hypothetical about that. Macleans reported that: "In a letter. . . Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said they've looked at the secret U.S. file on Arar and think the decision is 'appropriate.'" David Wilkins said later that, "Mr. Arar's original removal from the United States in 2002 was based on information from a variety of sources, as is his current watch-list status."

Of course, the fact is that a Canadian government commission found that Arar was completly innnocent and apologized to him. The US has not. Patrick Leahy gave Gonzales a whole of grief about the case the other day telling him, "This abhorrent practice stains America's reputation as a defender and protector of human rights. Yet the Bush administration has yet to renounced (it) and it has yet to offer even the hint of an apology to Mr. Arar."

Like Gonzales cares. As far as he's concerned everything was done just right. "We were not responsible for his removal to Syria, I'm not aware that he was tortured, and I haven't read the Commission report. Mr. Arar was deported under our immigration laws. He was initially detained because his name appeared on terrorist lists, and he was deported according to our laws."

Of course, and even though he was a Canadian citizen, for some reason Gonzales decided to send Arar to Syria. But not to worry:

"We understand as a government what our obligations are with respect to anyone who is rendered by this government to another country, and that is that we seek to satisfy ourselves that they will not be tortured. And we do that in every case. And if in fact he had been rendered to Syria, we would have sought those same kind of assurances, as we do in every case." [Jurist]

Leahy answered that by saying: "Attorney General, I'm sorry. I don't mean to treat this lightly. We knew damn well if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held; he'd be investigated. We also knew damn well if he went to Syria, he would be tortured. . . And it is easy for us to sit here comfortably in this room, knowing that we're not going to be sent off to another country to be tortured, to treat it as though -- well, Attorney General Ashcroft said, 'We’ve got assurances,' though assurances from a country that we also say now, "Oh, we can't talk to them because we can't take their word for anything." []

Oh, you can trust the Syrians, just like you can trust the US government. They've got information on Arar, you can count on that. Thery can't disclose what they have, naturally, because that would treaten national security.

If I were Maher Arar, I'd stay as far away from this country as I possibly can.


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