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Arar Commission Releases Report
September 19, 2006 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, the Arar Commission released their report on the handling of the Maher Arar case, previously mentioned here or here. The findings are widely reported; Canada is self-flagellating for being complicit in the United States' abduction and torture of a Canadian citizen. As President Bush goes to Congress to lobby for the legal authority to abduct and torture anyone without a trial, Arar should consider himself lucky: although Canada didn't help him out for a year, the Canadian government and news media were aware of and interested in his confinement, which likely saved him from the worst tortures. As a famous legal scholar commented some 240 years ago, "To bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government."
posted by jellicle (102 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's Talk like a pirate day. Not talk about a guy who sounds like he should be pirate day. Arar matey!

[I am not sure if this should put a chink in my smug sense of Canadian superiority or enhance it. We screwed up. But we recognize we screwed up.]
posted by srboisvert at 8:39 AM on September 19, 2006


Innocent until proven guilty?

How quaint. (just ask Ashcroft Gonzales)
posted by nofundy at 8:43 AM on September 19, 2006


That's not what the president was lobbying for.

Look, if the CIA captures someone overseas for doing whatever, does it really make sense to you that the person should have the full spectrum of constitutional rights? Does it really make sense to you that a prisoner of the CIA in afghanistan should magically have more rights than a prosoner of the Afghan government in afghanistan?

I don't like the idea of the US torturing anyone, but that's easy enough to solve with a law - no person acting on behalf the united states shall do XYZ to a prisoner. No one wants to propose this though. They want to accept the entire Geneva Conventions or none of it, which is bizarre considering that everyone we actually go to war with breaks pretty much every rule anyway. But we are supposed to be better and I understand that, but you have to understand that just because you pass a law under one set of assumptions doesn't make those assumptions ture in reality.

But think about this really hard for a moment. If the CIA detains, say, 12 people in a terror cell in Saudi Arabia, what should it do with those people? Give them to the Saudis to disappear? Put them on trial in the US, where you have no witnesses, no reliable chain of custody of evidence, and national security rules preventing the disclosure of what scant evidence you have? Should the CIA put them up in a hotel? What? These guys have information. You need it. Please tell the CIA how it should get it.

Does anyone understand that the CIA is not the US's foreign police force? They gather intelligence, they don't arrest people and put them on trial.

Too much of political discourse in this country is predicated on distaste, on saying only no to something they don't like. You don't like secret prisons? Good. Come up with a solution. Please tell us how you would deal with this problem.

And about Arrar's treatment at the airport and by police, I'm going to suggest something radical. In the United States, whenever a cop asks you for permission to do something - "Can I search your bag?" "Can you come with me to the station to discuss this?" You can always say no. They only ask you for persmission for things you have the right to turn down. If you didn't have that right, they wouldn't ask.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:44 AM on September 19, 2006


The fact that this case is so little known in the US is almost more horrifying than the fact that it happened at all. I still have a hard time recognizing my own country in this. I wish Canada would kick our asses about this more. "Widely reported," ha! I've never seen this on the national news, and I'll bet most Americans haven't either.
posted by emjaybee at 8:45 AM on September 19, 2006


Actually we did pass a law when congress ratified the Geneva conventions. We are constitutionally bound to obey them. The Geneva conventions make no allowances for torturing those who you dislike more than your typical enemy.

As for the question of what the CIA should do when they've found a terrorist cell.... how do they know they have a terrorist cell? Do they have evidence? If they do, they, or someone with authority should arrest and try the suspects. If they have no evidence, they should gather more, and leave the people alone.
posted by Humanzee at 8:55 AM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel: Guy is in US custody? Then he deserves the same protection under the law as a guy whether he's in a cell in a CIA base in Algiers or a FBI cell in New York. Nice and easy, simple to remember.

The reason people don't want to write a law saying 'Don't do X, Y and Z'? Because some smartarse invents a new entertaining torture method that's patently obviously torture, but isn't covered under X, Y and Z and then goes on to claim that, sure, it looks like torture but it can't be really 'cos it's not X, Y or Z.

BTW, America has ALREADY accepted the Geneva Conventions. They've been around since 1949. It's only this mob who are suddenly having palpitations about whether or not they're somehow nebulous. Or, put another way: We thought it was OK to do this, but we've been caught out at it and now somebody's told us it was illegal, oh shit oh shit oh shit ... how do we spin this? I know! We'll claim we didn't know it was illegal 'cos the entire things 'vague', 'unclear', needing clarification ...
posted by kaemaril at 8:56 AM on September 19, 2006


Hmm..
Even after Mr. Arar's return to Canada, the RCMP was causing problems for Mr. Arar. The Mounties, the report says, misled the Privy Council Office at an important meeting, by failing to disclose "certain key facts that could have reflected adversely on the force."

The details of the meeting and who specifically from the RCMP was responsible are not included in the public version of the O'Connor report.
So that is what this is all about:
The 822-page report, which has been censored because of government concerns about national security,
posted by Chuckles at 8:56 AM on September 19, 2006


And that's exactly why Mr. Arar says he wants those responsible held accountable.
Seems like a reasonable request.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:03 AM on September 19, 2006


Look, if the CIA captures someone overseas for doing whatever, does it really make sense to you that the person should have the full spectrum of constitutional rights?

Yes.

Does it really make sense to you that a prisoner of the CIA in afghanistan should magically have more rights than a prosoner of the Afghan government in afghanistan?

Yes.

But think about this really hard for a moment. If the CIA detains, say, 12 people in a terror cell in Saudi Arabia, what should it do with those people?

who cares.

And about Arrar's treatment at the airport and by police, I'm going to suggest something radical. In the United States, whenever a cop asks you for permission to do something - "Can I search your bag?" "Can you come with me to the station to discuss this?" You can always say no. They only ask you for persmission for things you have the right to turn down. If you didn't have that right, they wouldn't ask.

First of all, that's not true. If you're coming in from a forgiven country, the "cops" (i.e. customs agents) have the right to search your stuff, even your computer for contraband. There was an AskMe question about a guy who came back from Thailand and had his computer quickly searched for "pictures" by a customs guy.

Secondly, it didn't matter at all that he let them search his things, because there was no incriminating evidence on them, so what does this have to do with his story, he still would have been sent to Syria for torture.
posted by delmoi at 9:04 AM on September 19, 2006


That's not what the president was lobbying for.

Really, now? Really?
posted by Artw at 9:04 AM on September 19, 2006


You know... we ratified the 1949 revisions to the Geneva Conventions in 1955. Why the fuck do we need "clarification" now.

One would think that through the Cold War and Vietnam, we could have addressed these issues. We seemed to make it through all right.

We should not to become our enemies to fight them.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:07 AM on September 19, 2006


to
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:07 AM on September 19, 2006


Guy is in US custody? Then he deserves the same protection under the law as a guy whether he's in a cell in a CIA base in Algiers or a FBI cell in New York. Nice and easy, simple to remember.

And completely wrong. POW's don't get this treatment when they are prisoners of the military. What the CIA does is kidnapping. They don't have the legal authority to take people into custody. They aren't the police or FBI.

You have to realize that everything the CIA does, the spying, is illegal in the countries they do it. Wiretapping is probably illegal in Saudi Arabia, but I guarantee you the CIA/NSA is tapping phones there.

The consitution does not and should not apply outside of the United states except when the US government is acting against US citizens. This has always been the case, and there's no reason to restrict it now.

Not to get into a legal argument over the Geneva conventions, but it probably doesn't not apply to the current conflict. First, Protocols 1, 2, and 3, were never adopted by the US. Secondly, al qaeda prisoners are not prisoners of war. They may be prisoners taken in a war, but that's not the same thing.

The Third Geneva convention requires those fighting the United States to among other things, distinguish themselves from the civilian population and fight according to the laws and customs of war. See Here.

The various guerilla groups, including Al Qaeda, do none. Therefore, they do not qualify for prisoner of war status.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:08 AM on September 19, 2006


But think about this really hard for a moment. If the CIA detains, say, 12 people in a terror cell in Saudi Arabia, what should it do with those people?

Hold them indefinitely until the Saudi government complains, decides to try them, or you have enough evidence to extradite them. What's the problem here?
posted by Skorgu at 9:11 AM on September 19, 2006


Look, if the CIA captures someone overseas for doing whatever, does it really make sense to you that the person should have the full spectrum of constitutional rights? Does it really make sense to you that a prisoner of the CIA in afghanistan should magically have more rights than a prosoner of the Afghan government in afghanistan?
Yes, and yes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:12 AM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel from your link:

(Article 5):"Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act..." is a prisoner of war "...such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal."

You assume that all prisoners are POWs until you've decided otherwise in a tribunal.
posted by Skorgu at 9:14 AM on September 19, 2006


OK, will somebody PLEASE address the seemingly universal and unambiguous chorus of voices that say, without hesitation, that TORTURE DOES NOT WORK?

Isn't this really just about the neo-cons who don't like any limitations on presidential power? So if you tell them they can't do something, they don't even care if it's something that has no use, they will fight for their right to do it? Particularly in an election year, when the fight they are undertaking not only preserves the principle of unitary executive, but also keeps the 51% of the voters scared enough to vote for more of the same.

Oh, and pastabagel, I'm sorry if I'm mis-reading your comments, but we ABSOLUTELY and UNHESITATINGLY SHOULD treat our prisoners better than Saudi Arabia treats theirs. 100% of the time. Are you really asking that question?
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:17 AM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


If the CIA detains, say, 12 people in a terror cell in Saudi Arabia, what should it do with those people? Give them to the Saudis to disappear? Put them on trial in the US, where you have no witnesses, no reliable chain of custody of evidence, and national security rules preventing the disclosure of what scant evidence you have? Should the CIA put them up in a hotel? What? These guys are completely innocent. You need it. Please tell the CIA how it should get it.

Well Pastabagel what if "these guys who have information" are completely innocent? The law isn't there to protect the guilty as much as it is to protect the innocent.

The mindset that "these guys have information" seems to me to be justification for torture. At the end of the day, you either torture "detainees" or you do not torture "detainees." America - should not be a nation that tortures anyone for any reason. Period.

Liberty does not mean a life without risk. Yeah, not torturing some "detainees" might mean that a bomb goes off on a bus in NYC. Lives will be lost. So be it, say I. The alternative is to live under a Saddam Hussein.

Give me liberty, or give me death.
posted by three blind mice at 9:18 AM on September 19, 2006 [4 favorites]


Secondly, al qaeda prisoners are not prisoners of war. They may be prisoners taken in a war, but that's not the same thing.

I'm pretty sure the Hamdan decision found otherwise. Also, we are completely off track, this guy Arar was taken into custody in the U.S. so what does any of this have to do with his case?
posted by delmoi at 9:18 AM on September 19, 2006


People have human rights by virtue of being human, not by virtue of being American.

Let's go back to the declaration of independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I don't see anything in that statement about Americans in America having those rights. You have those rights regardless of where you are, and who you are, even if you have the misfortune of having been born with brown skin in Asia.
posted by empath at 9:18 AM on September 19, 2006


empath I agree in spirit, but the Declaration has no legal force in the US.
posted by Skorgu at 9:20 AM on September 19, 2006


It takes real courage and decency to treat people who hate you with decency, fairness and respect.

Only cowards and bullies torture.
posted by empath at 9:20 AM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Skorgu, that's not exactly true.
posted by empath at 9:21 AM on September 19, 2006


here here, empath.


or should that be "hear, hear"?
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:21 AM on September 19, 2006


Lets not forget:
three other Canadian Muslim men -- Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muyyed Nurredin -- who were imprisoned in the Middle East under similar circumstances.
And what's more, Arrangement for the Transfer of Detainees Between the Canadian Forces and the Ministry of Defence of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Truly sickening.
posted by Chuckles at 9:22 AM on September 19, 2006


And in any case, it's a foundational document, regardless of its current legal standing. The constitution makes no moral sense if you start limiting its protections to certain segments of the population. Why should Americans receive those protections and no one else?
posted by empath at 9:22 AM on September 19, 2006


The constituion isn't a moral document, it's a legal one.

Look, we're not (really) debating morals here because we all have a different sense of what those morals are, otherwise we'd have banned torture a long time ago.

We as a country have to decide what legal framework these acts will fall under so that we have a mechanism to decide what is justified and what isn't.
posted by Skorgu at 9:25 AM on September 19, 2006


not, btw, that I think other governments are obligated to uphold the US constitition, but they should certainly all extend whichever human rights they afford their own citizens to any other people under their power. And, if they don't afford human rights to their own citizens, then they're illegitimate.
posted by empath at 9:25 AM on September 19, 2006


I just want to reiterate my assertion that by arguing the legality of torture and rendition we are letting the Republicans frame the debate. The question ought to be whether or not torture EVER produces reliable information. From my reading of things, the overwhelming answer is "NO". For my money, the debate stops right there.

Even so, a smart Democratic candidate should be able to attack Bushco on two fronts - 1) that torture is immoral and 2) that it's ineffective.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:26 AM on September 19, 2006


Fingers_of_fire, here's why torture doesn't work: because if I beat you long enough, or suspend you from the ceiling long enough, or put you in a box long enough, you'll tell me that your fingers are not actually of fire, but ice, just to make me stop. And then I'm going to come back the next day, and the next day, and so on. Eventually, you'll tell me anything you think I want to hear. Anything.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 9:27 AM on September 19, 2006


Skorgu, we did ban torture and mistreatment of prisoners a long time ago. In the Bill of Rights, in fact.
posted by empath at 9:28 AM on September 19, 2006


I think empaths' point is important: those who would advocate torture, or any sort of unconstitutional treatment of anyone in U.S. custody, including, but not limited to, due process, are being essentially un-American. Even if the detainee is in another country, has valuable information, is or is not an actual POW, even if you think torture works, and that it's completely justified, even if you think it's legal, and whether or not you believe the Geneva Convention is valid--it doesn't matter; you are contradicting the very basic values upon which our country was founded.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:28 AM on September 19, 2006


Ah, and there you go and clarify your position. Never mind, Fingers_of_fire. I misread you.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 9:29 AM on September 19, 2006


I know, insects, I know - which is why it's so maddening to listen to the debate over why the president needs the authority to do things which one expert after another will tell you are not really any help at all.

Why doesn't McCain (or, more accurately, someone with a little backbone) stand up and say that torture doesn't work?
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:29 AM on September 19, 2006


I just want to clarify, I'm wholly and entirely against torture in any form, for any reason, no matter the country or circumstances and I don't think it is ever justifiable.

empath I think that torture is already illegal in the US and by all agents acting on behalf of the US thanks to the Geneva convention. We don't need laws against torture, we're already bound by them. We need a Congress to enforce the laws that are on the books, even if the one breaking them is the President.
posted by Skorgu at 9:32 AM on September 19, 2006


Does no one remember why we gave up torture in the first place? Not for morality, so much as the fact that it doesn't work. Seems when you torture people, they develop a tendency to tell you pretty much anything they think will make you happy and stop torturing them. Any information gathered from torture immediately goes into the "we can't trust a word of this to actually be true" bin. Makes otherwise useful sources useless. That kind of thing. This is really interrogation 101 stuff, and I think it's almost more alarming that the counter-argument to the morals is how useful torture is. It's not useful at all, for anything but punishment.
posted by jefgodesky at 9:33 AM on September 19, 2006


The question ought to be whether or not torture EVER produces reliable information. From my reading of things, the overwhelming answer is "NO".

Well I think that's a bad idea, because it's results-based. If you take that argument, if someone developed a torture technique, which could work, then your arguments would no longer be valid.

A liberal who says torture never works is like an oil executive doesn't believe in global warming, or a social conservative who thinks gay marriage = child molestation. There is some evidence, and you believe all of it because you like the result.

Torture has never been scientifically studied, because doing so would violate all experimental ethics in psychology.

My belief is that torture causes a lot of "false positives", people just start making things up in order to get the torture to stop. But I think in terms of getting 'true positives' it might work well. That's just a guess.
posted by delmoi at 9:45 AM on September 19, 2006


you are contradicting the very basic values upon which our country was founded.

Yes. It's indecent, and I mean that word in the sincerest and plainest sense. It's unChristian. It's anti-American.

The universal torture fixation among neocons is what convinced me that the movement is completely irrational and reactionary (the nuke-lust, too.) It would be one thing if they were so fiercely advocating for some policy that could very well be effective but that I disagreed with morally, but the policy itself is counterproductive, for several different non-controversial reasons.

There is no sane reason to want institutionalized torture. It is not desired for rational reasons, but for psychological ones.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2006


does it really make sense to you that the person should have the full spectrum of constitutional rights?

Sure. All the rights of either a POW or a criminal prisoner, take your pick.

Does it really make sense to you that a prisoner of the CIA in afghanistan should magically have more rights than a prosoner of the Afghan government in afghanistan?

Of course. Every person on Earth, no matter what they're purported to have done or might do, should have more rights than prisoners of the Afghan government do.

If the CIA detains, say, 12 people in a terror cell in Saudi Arabia, what should it do with those people?

Try them. Or, if you're being really harsh -- I mean harsh like Judd Nelson, man -- just shoot them out of hand and be done with it.

But not ever, ever, ever torture them.

These guys have information. You need it. Please tell the CIA how it should get it.

That's asinine. Torture is a terrible way to get information, especially the sorts of time-sensitive information (WHERE IS THE BOMB?!?!?!?) that are usually bandied about in these goofy what-ifs.

You don't like secret prisons? Good. Come up with a solution. Please tell us how you would deal with this problem.

I would stop sending people to secret prisons.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:52 AM on September 19, 2006


Nothing but net, ROU -- nice work.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 10:06 AM on September 19, 2006


theinsectsarewaiting: This is a good point and torture is certainly reprehensible from a human rights standpoint alone. For devils advocate: Does the effectiveness change if, instead of torturing a prisoner that may or may not know something, would torturing a person of importance yield better results? That is, someone who is a known right-hand man or lietenant that is definitely in a position to know something.

You'd think that somebody who is clearly cornered where he knows that this captors know damn well that he knows something wouldn't give up the goods.

sonofsamiam:The universal torture fixation among neocons is what convinced me that the movement is completely irrational and reactionary

This is exactly why I hate the tv show 24. It seems like it grooms the populace into thinking torture is acceptable. "Of course you have to hook their nuts up to a car battery! They know where the bomb is hidden and you don't have time to play patty-cake!".
posted by dr_dank at 10:07 AM on September 19, 2006


And completely wrong. POW's don't get this treatment when they are prisoners of the military. What the CIA does is kidnapping. They don't have the legal authority to take people into custody. They aren't the police or FBI.

Pastabagel: Oh, shut up. I didn't say I was drawing a legal conclusion. You didn't ask for a legal synopsis, you asked if a guy 'deserved' ... I answered. YES, he frickin' does.

I'm more than aware that the CIA doesn't have powers of arrest. Oh, and way to distinguish between military custody and civilian custody, jackass.

Oh, and as far as your expert summary of whether or not terrorists 'deserve' POW status ... you might want to take a look at common article 3, which the Supreme Court has ruled DOES count, and is also included in the FOURTH Geneva Convention. Hint: Nothing to do with POWs, still big on the 'no torture' thing.
posted by kaemaril at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2006


This episode of the British documentary series Dispatches - about extraordinary rendition - has a lengthy section towards the end about the Arar case, as well as an interview with Arar. I was watching it only this afternoon because of this thread. Small world.
posted by Grangousier at 10:17 AM on September 19, 2006


Oh, and as for "deserving" anything, I'd like to point out that he is a software engineer who had the misfortune to have as a friend-of-a-friend someone who was on a list somewhere.
posted by Grangousier at 10:20 AM on September 19, 2006


Just in case anyone needs more legal proof: the war crimes act specifically mentions Article 3, specifically states that location within or outside of the U.S. is irrelevant, and specifically states that any U.S. national is subject to the act (either as victem or perpetrator).
posted by Humanzee at 10:20 AM on September 19, 2006


Humanzee : Indeed. And just to show how serious they are about it (and to really get some guys sweating, no doubt) ... the maximum penalty is DEATH.

(Which I'm against, btw, but it does, I believe, illustrate how seriously the USA used to take torture and warcrimes)
posted by kaemaril at 10:27 AM on September 19, 2006


1. There is no ambiguity of the status of members of Al Qaeda. They meet absolutely none of the POW criteria. It's not a matter of doubt, it's quite clear that they aren't.

2. Skorgu suggested holding people until the Saudi governemtn decides what to do with them. Where do you hold them?

3. Just because you hold someone doesn't mean you torture them. In the US, you can put someone in jail and simply leave them there indefinitely without trial for contempt of court.

4. Delmoi - Hamdan did not decide the question of his entitlement to a combatant status tribunal because it ruled the military tribunals set up to try him were a violation of the GC and the UCMJ. In any case, Hamdan is still in custody and will get get a court martial.

5. Constitional rights do not apply to everyone on earth coming into contact with the US government. The US government has no jurisdiction in foreign countries, and it's laws do not extend there.

6. Let me explain this point differently. To take a prisoner, under the law, the agent of the government has to have the legal authority to do so. They have to be able to arrest people. The CIA can't arrest people. It can force them into a room at gunpoint, but there is no legal arrest taking place. Everything the CIA does outside the US to foreign nationals is completely outside the jurisdiction of US law. It is, of course entirely within the jurisdiction of the local law.

So if as many of you suggest the constitution and laws of the united states should apply to any action by the US against any person anywhere, you don't even ever need to get to the torture question. Every singlle activity by the NSA and the CIA are completely illegal under US law, because they were set up to do precisely those things overseas that would be patently illegal if done within the US.

If a CIA agent takes a prisoner under any conditions that would still be a flagrant violation of due process and probably the 5th, 6th, and 8th amendments to the constitution if the constitution applied overseas. Forget about the torture question - you never need to get to that.

Furthermore this would have been the case going back to the OSS days and even earlier. No passive eavesdropping, no photosurveillance, none of it would be legal. That's absurd of course.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:30 AM on September 19, 2006


I'm not talking about torture, I'm talking about the secret prisons detention issue.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:31 AM on September 19, 2006


I got into a fairly heated discussion with somebody about the Geneva Convention issue Friday evening, let's call him "Mr. Talk Radio," which from his side went "Article 3 this, Article 3 that." So, Saturday I looked up the Geneva Convention.

Personally I find nothing at all confusing about Article 3. It is short and to the point. Article 4 is a little confusing as regards whether the current batch of "detainees" are POW's or not but Article 5 clears that up nicely by saying "when in doubt, ask a 'competent tribunal.'"

And all of the above just doesn't matter because we're supposed to be better than those guys. When I see the President of the United States going in front of congress to let him drag our country down to the level of some of the worst people on earth, I am ashamed.

Oh, and it's perfectly obvious that neither Mr. T.R. nor the disembodied voices he listens to have ever read the effin' thing.
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:32 AM on September 19, 2006


Oh, what the hell. It needs saying:

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441

§ 2441. War crimes

(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.
(b) Circumstances.— The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).
(c) Definition.— As used in this section the term “war crime” means any conduct—
(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or
(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.
posted by kaemaril at 10:32 AM on September 19, 2006


delmoi writes Torture has never been scientifically studied, because doing so would violate all experimental ethics in psychology.

Not completely true. Perhaps it hasn't been directly studied in randomized and controlled human trials, but there is certainly enough data from case reports, basic voluntary psychology experiements, and animal experimentation. The effects on both victim and torturer are known well enough for scientific credibility.

Historically, interrogators (as opposed to punitive torturers) have used torture when they are under pressure to obtain information (without regard to usefulness) or confessions (without regard to truth). Those products in turn "justify" the act of torture, prove the "usefulness" of the interrogators, and send authorities after the new names that were extracted (without regard to evidence), and the cycle continues.
posted by zennie at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel, I'm pretty sure that US citizens are subject to US law even when they are outside the country. If you fuck a 13-year-old child prostitute in Laos, your gubmint can charge and convict you once you get back to Pawtucket.

The CIA should not get a free pass just because they're the CIA and it would be inconvenient to play spy games without breaking US law.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2006


Foreign nationals may not be U.S. citizens, but there are many U.S. laws (and some constitutional laws) that prohibit certain actions by the U.S. government, regardless of whom those actions are taken against ---the war crimes act being only one such law. These nationals do have rights under U.S. law (via treaties, which have the weight of U.S. law under our constitution), but the government is restrained further by limitations on the kinds of actions that it is allowed to take.

It should also be emphasized that the CIA has captured foreign nationals and presumed them to be Al Qaeda, but these people haven't seen a trial. Many of the ones who have been subsequently released have been innocent. It is dishonest to call them all terrorists.

Finally, in the event that CIA has evidence of a terror plot, it is quite capable of tipping off whatever law enforcement agency has jurisdiction. It is true that not violating the law will constrain CIA action, but that's the whole point of having law! There is certainly a case to be made that the CIA has caused as many (or more) problems as it has fixed. Iran might very well be a democracy now if not for unrestrained CIA action.
posted by Humanzee at 10:53 AM on September 19, 2006


Ok, people are confused.

Article 3 (refered to at (3) in kaemaril's post:

Article 3 describes minimal protections which must be adhered to by all individuals within a signatory's territory (regardless of citizenship or lack thereof): Noncombatants, combatants who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, including prohibition of outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment. The passing of sentences must also be pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. Article 3's protections exist even if one is not a Protected person..

Keep in mind this is only applies in a war when the person in question falls into the hands of the enemy. It is not clear that the CIA grabbing someone ouside of a war zone off the street is putting someone in the hands of the enemy. They aren't in a war (in Saudi Arabia), so Article 3, the 1907 conventions and 2441 do not apply to this situation as it is not in a war. This is why the CIA was able to do things like this throughout the Cold War without committing war crimes.

In the case of people captured in Iraq and afghanistan, it is of course different. But their treatment is different than the example above. They are taken to prisons, Gitmo, etc. and while the plan was to undergo military tribunals, they will now undergo ordinary court martials or ordinary court trials in the US. The examples of Abu Ghraib, and random prisoner killings are exceptions because the military is punishing its personnel who commit those crimes.

Now in the case of sleep deprivation, light deprivation, etc., do they fall outside of Article 3's "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment. The passing of sentences must also be pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples", considering that the standard for humiliating and degrading is the standard in most signatory countries, i.e. what is the standard in saudi arabia, Iran, pakistan, etc., unless you are prepared to state that they are not civilized peoples. It is a lowest common denominator standard. And the lowest, you have to admit looking at the middle east, is pretty low.

Detentions and secret prisons are not pleasant but they are legal.

Morally, is torture wrong? Yes. Legally wrong? Probably, but maybe not. a lot of these adverbs and adjectives have very broad definitions.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:58 AM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel, I'm pretty sure that US citizens are subject to US law even when they are outside the country. If you fuck a 13-year-old child prostitute in Laos, your gubmint can charge and convict you once you get back to Pawtucket.

The CIA should not get a free pass just because they're the CIA and it would be inconvenient to play spy games without breaking US law.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:51 PM EST on September 19 [+] [!]


No they can't, because I didn't break the law in Pawtucket. Extradition issues aside, I can murder someone overseas and come back.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:02 AM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel, you're just wrong. It happens all the time: someone commits an act in a foreign nation that is legal there but illegal in the US, and are charged in the US when they get back.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:05 AM on September 19, 2006


should also be emphasized that the CIA has captured foreign nationals and presumed them to be Al Qaeda...

This is a good point, but the CIA's presumptions never need verification by a court (unless they want to put the guy in trial)., because they are acting outside of the law the entire time they are operating (I realize the CIA has its own rules of conduct, regulations etc, I'm not talking about those but rather the laws that apply to everyone in the US generally).
posted by Pastabagel at 11:05 AM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel, you're just wrong. It happens all the time: someone commits an act in a foreign nation that is legal there but illegal in the US, and are charged in the US when they get back.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:05 PM EST on September 19 [+] [!]


Since when? Example?
posted by Pastabagel at 11:06 AM on September 19, 2006


Unless you are thinking about transactional things, like say online gambling. The crime is the solicitation of gamblers in the US, which takes place in the US when ads appear on their screen, when US bettors place orders in their system from their US computers etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2006


Example.
posted by Floydd at 11:09 AM on September 19, 2006


Your logic is getting pretty tortured. The war crimes act specifically states that location is irrelevant. You torture or murder someone in Saudi Arabia, it's the same as in New Hampshire. It was passed to ban EXACTLY the behavior that this administration is engaging in.

It is also clear that Article 3 is not intended to be a lowest common denominator standard. If the governments that you mentioned fail to provide internationally recognized judicial guarantees (right to trial, right to representation, right to know the evidence against you, etc) then yes, under Article 3, their behavior is uncivilized. Article 3 is meant to protect human rights and provide a framework for punishment of those who violate them. If Article 3 was just "lowest common denominator" then it would be impossible to violate, which is absurd.
posted by Humanzee at 11:12 AM on September 19, 2006


Since always. Sometimes even happens that people who are not US citizens are charged with breaking US laws while residing in foreign nations.

Examples? Dude, I'm refuting you, not the other way around. You cite me the law that says the US citizens are not subject to US law once they leave the country.

But if you need to push it, you could always go to the US Department of State's website, and look at the consular information sheets. Maybe Google "prosecutable in the United States".
posted by solid-one-love at 11:14 AM on September 19, 2006


1. There is no ambiguity of the status of members of Al Qaeda. They meet absolutely none of the POW criteria. It's not a matter of doubt, it's quite clear that they aren't.

Not relevant. "Unlawful combatant" status is a fiction, there's no such thing. Nothing that anybody can do can place them outside the protections of international law.
posted by empath at 11:21 AM on September 19, 2006


Ok, the example you cited is only possible because it makes it explicit:

`(c) ENGAGING IN ILLICIT SEXUAL CONDUCT IN FOREIGN PLACES- Any United States citizen or alien admitted for permanent residence who travels in foreign commerce, and engages in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

Note, however, that this only works for the very specific example that solid-one-love gave (is that why you gave it?), and I'm not so sure it's constitutional anyway. But they had to make it explicit in this case because as a general rule it would not be illegal.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:24 AM on September 19, 2006


You cite me the law that says the US citizens are not subject to US law once they leave the country.

Moot point because someone did provide an example, but you rarely see laws defining where the law does not apply. It's a question of jurisdiction unless otherwise defined (as in the cited example).
posted by Pastabagel at 11:28 AM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel: Look, if the CIA captures someone overseas for doing whatever, does it really make sense to you that the person should have the full spectrum of constitutional rights? Does it really make sense to you that a prisoner of the CIA in afghanistan should magically have more rights than a prisoner of the Afghan government in afghanistan?


It's been answered already; it needs answering again: yes, and yes

...Too much of political discourse in this country is predicated on distaste, on saying only no to something they don't like. You don't like secret prisons? Good. Come up with a solution. Please tell us how you would deal with this problem.

In this case, rendition, torture, spying ... they're not distasteful, they're evil and immoral. Oh, and by the way illegal.

And about Arrar's treatment at the airport and by police, I'm going to suggest something radical. In the United States, whenever a cop asks you for permission to do something - "Can I search your bag?" "Can you come with me to the station to discuss this?" You can always say no. They only ask you for persmission for things you have the right to turn down. If you didn't have that right, they wouldn't ask.

..I must have missed the part where Arar was asked "Can we put you in a Syrian jail for a year?" What was his answer?

I'm deeply ashamed at the part apparently played by the institutions and goverment of my country (canada) in mr Arar's imprisonment, and for not getting him out sooner.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:30 AM on September 19, 2006


"Unlawful combatant" status is a fiction, there's no such thing. Nothing that anybody can do can place them outside the protections of international law.

a colleague explained the goal: to "find the legal equivalent of outer space"—a "lawless" universe. As Bowker understood it, the idea was to create a system where detainees would have no legal rights and U.S courts would have no power to intervene.

"In space, no one can hear you scream"
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:31 AM on September 19, 2006


It's been answered already; it needs answering again: yes, and yes

You realize that this renders the CIA and the NSA completely powerless, right? If this is true, how do you gather any intelligence?

And you dodged the point - come up with an alternative system. Under your framework, the CIA et al. have to gather intelligence wil obey and presevers all US laws even when dealing with foreign nationals outside the US. Please explain to me how this can be accomplished in a realistic way.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:35 AM on September 19, 2006


First - the “does torture work?” question is silly. One says “torture doesn’t work” as shorthand for a whole mess of study and refinement that has gone into other more efficient and productive methods of interrogation.
So does torture work? ‘Yes, but..’ = ‘No’
One can ride one’s bike from St. Louis to L.A. This does not make it a viable method of travel. So, given that we have far more efficient and timely methods of travel such as planes, trains and automobiles when someone asks if riding a bike to L.A. works we just say ‘no.’
In addition - breadth.
There are myriad effective interview strategies for relatives, friends, and aquaintences of the suspect. Should we just torture them instead?
In addition - no one lives in a vacuum.
One of the core necessities for dealing with terrorim is having good relations with the community. In those terms torture has sharply diminishing returns. Torture is one of the oldest strategies by which it is possible to gather information. This does not mean it is time-tested and proven and such should be used. It means it is as outmoded a technique as black powder is as an explosive.
In addition - torture has been studied extensively by interrogators in the modern era. (Do you seriously think the government would dose people with LSD but get shy over pulling out someone’s fingernails overseas? Furthermore other countries have tortured and we have had observers there studying the results.) So, perhaps not strictly speaking scientific, but professionally done and not anecdotal.
I could go on, but if you want a school full of knowlege on this check out the FBI’s behavioral science unit at Quantico. Believe me, they have looked into a wide variety of interrogation techniques.

Secondly - the objective is not to ‘get the terrorists’. The objective is to protect the citizenry. The reason we do not torture is because we accept (as a society) certain principles such as innocent until proven guilty and avoidance of cruel and unusual torture.
This is not because we get the warm fuzzies from such platitudes, but because we accept the rule of law as necessary to a free society.

There may well be a bomb that will kill 1,000 people if we don’t get the information out of prisoner x. But - practical unrealities of such a situation aside -we do not torture him because firstly we don’t know what he knows (logical - otherwise why are we trying to get the information out of him), which means we don’t know if he’s ‘guilty’ per se.
Even if he is guilty, even if we’re certain he knows (some bizarre method of telepathy that allows us to glean such knowlege without discovering any of his confederates perhaps), that is not a matter for any field officer to determine. Why? Because we cannot trust that power in the hands of one person or one agency.
To do so means we would be ruled by the whim of that person or agency and we’ve fought the war against kings a long time ago.
One has a right to remain silent exactly to avoid such coercion. It is not merely to protect the innocent on the scene, but the innocent members of society anywhere. It exists so lazy officers don’t just grab someone and beat them until they confess to a crime or an act of terrorism or frame someone they don’t like for it.
They have to do their job and find the guilty party and bring proof to the table. Enough proof to convict them through a set process.
We have that process in place to protect and insulate us from that power.
Someone overseas has the right not to be tortured or falsely imprisoned not for their own protection (although that’s a nifty human rights bonus) but so our own officials are held accountable to us for doing their jobs properly. The entire process should be transparent so we know the powers we delegate and the money we spend is not being abused or misused.
So prisons should not ever be secret.
And this ‘POW’ status is a red herring. First, terrorists are be subject to prosecution under international law if they have no ‘home country’. They are criminals. They should be treated and processed as criminals.
If they were sponsored by a country and/or a country we are at war with then an argument could be made that they are POWs.
As it is we are currently at “war” with a method of engagement - terrorism. This does not suddenly confer the right to use the military justice system against them (and indeed, we’re not even adhering to that).
The potential for abuses by our own government in allowing the kind of interpretation this administration is demanding is far too great.
We could, under the same logic, capture and hold incommunicado in secret prisons, street level drug dealers because we have a “war on drugs.”
The snafu seems to be that we don’t have a GSG9 or something along those lines to deal with terrorism tactically while the legal system deals with captured individuals - and this government is confusing, perhaps purposfully, tactical engagement with legal expediancy.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:35 AM on September 19, 2006


I really fucking regret ever watching and enjoying 24 season 1. Who knew a television show could make a democratic country go insane and start thinking it was okay to torture people?

I can't believe we are at the point where we argue the minutae of law about torture. It is fucking T O R T U R E. It is pure evil. There is no justifying it even it was effective (which it isn't). Evil. EVIL. As in the exact opposite of good. It is uncivilized. Inhumane. To even debate about it makes me feel like i need to shower.


I'm more afraid of people who can justify torture as legal, expedient or necessary than I am of anything else in the world.
posted by srboisvert at 11:42 AM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


But they had to make it explicit in this case because as a general rule it would not be illegal.

I remember reading about the debate, and some pundits found the law unnecessary because it was already illegal. They didn't have to make it explicit in this case. They did so because it was a political feelgood move.

I gave you an example, you tell me it doesn't mean what I think it does. I suspect that any other examples I give would be disregarded similarly.

You're wrong, and ignorantly so.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:46 AM on September 19, 2006


And you dodged the point - come up with an alternative system.

Actually, he didn't. The alternate system was to not imprison them in secret prisons. That you don't like that this is either not specific enough or results in letting them go free does not change the fact that it is an alternative.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:55 AM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel, you've now posted 12 times in this thread. Can you shut up? Thanks.

Re: "torture works": as the links note, Maher Arar (a totally innocent bystander) signed several made-up confessions under torture. This is the sort of "evidence" that the Bush people want to USE in secret tribunals against other "terrorists".
I don't like the idea of the US torturing anyone, but that's easy enough to solve with a law - no person acting on behalf the united states shall do XYZ to a prisoner. No one wants to propose this though.
Actually Pastabagel, that's what the law is now. Bush wants to change it.

Being outside the U.S. when one commits a major crime doesn't make much difference to the enforcement of appropriate laws. There are a million examples; jeez, the whole prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib took place in Iraq, and yet the various soldiers are being punished under U.S. laws. Come on now. If you "murder someone overseas and come back", as you seem to think is legal, the U.S. will likely extradite you to the country where you committed the crime, where you will be punished, and then when you return to the U.S., you might be charged AGAIN with murder and punished AGAIN. (This is not double-jeopardy - two different laws, two different courts.)

I don't mind that people are ignorant of the law - how will you learn, if you don't express ignorance? - but it annoys me that you argue so vehemently without having much idea of what you're talking about.
posted by jellicle at 12:03 PM on September 19, 2006


First, terrorists are be subject to prosecution under international law if they have no ‘home country’. They are criminals. They should be treated and processed as criminals.

Yes.

"Illegal combatant" is made-up soft shit. You mean someone who killed people, in violation of the law? Oh hell we'd better throw out the entire legal system for this one!

Even worse, in the future, we may face "Law Violatators" or "Criminality do-ificators" which clearly do not fit into any existing legal framework, which is why we had to cut off your daddy's balls.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:06 PM on September 19, 2006


“If a CIA agent takes a prisoner under any conditions that would still be a flagrant violation of due process...”

Wrong. International extradition and rendition are common practice and involved the home country’s judiciary as well as due process in the United States. It is only extraordinary rendition that has been under question.
Khalfan Khamis Mohamed was brought in from South Africa for bombing a U.S. Embassy in Tanzania in ‘98 and was tried and convicted. (et.al)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:09 PM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel writes "Look, if the CIA captures someone overseas for doing whatever, does it really make sense to you that the person should have the full spectrum of constitutional rights?"

Does it really make sense to you that the CIA is allowed to capture people overseas? Does that not make the CIA a criminal organization? I'm quite sure that there are laws practically everywhere against kidnapping.
posted by clevershark at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2006


(me) It's been answered already; it needs answering again: yes, and yes

You realize that this renders the CIA and the NSA completely powerless, right? If this is true, how do you gather any intelligence?

Obligatory pacifist answer: yessss!

Realpolitik answer: you do what has always been done. you sneak around, try to not be detected. You realize that this shit is WRONG and that you will be going to hell (or Syria) for doing it, so you only do it when it's absolutely necessary.

You don't make human rights violations legal and act proud about it.

If it's Ok for the US to be doing this elsewhere, you probably won't mind too much when [insert despised country] does the same here? or is that somehow different? The US hasn't ratified the "Golden Rule" either?

And you dodged the point - come up with an alternative system. Under your framework, the CIA et al. have to gather intelligence wil obey and presevers all US laws even when dealing with foreign nationals outside the US. Please explain to me how this can be accomplished in a realistic way.

Obligatory pacifist answer: I'm sayin don't do it.

More realistic answer: if our Constititions and our Charters of Rights and our ethics aren't applicable in all our dealings, we're confirming to the world that they don't mean shit, and we're just doing the expedient like every other world conquerer and despot has.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2006


Boy, to read these comments you'd think this had nothing whatsoever to do with Canada.

Anyways, this is another in a long line of massive embarassments by our beloved Mounties. I don't know what else to say - Arar should get a huge payoff from the government, and should get to kick Bill Graham in the balls (or something). Our government's response to his incerceration was pathetic and truly shameful.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:43 PM on September 19, 2006


Humanzee : Indeed. And just to show how serious they are about it (and to really get some guys sweating, no doubt) ... the maximum penalty is DEATH.

Normally I'm against the death penalty, however I think that if crimes like this are committed under a claim of government authority, then they ought to receive the death penalty. My reasoning for this is a little convoluted, but basically those people believed they were doing the right thing, and killing them would let everyone know they were doing the wrong thing.
posted by delmoi at 12:46 PM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel, I'm pretty sure that US citizens are subject to US law even when they are outside the country. If you fuck a 13-year-old child prostitute in Laos, your gubmint can charge and convict you once you get back to Pawtucket.

That's not exactly true. There is a law against leaving the US for the purposes of underage sex, but if you leave the country for another reason, and have sex with someone in another country that does not violate that countries age of consent laws, you're not breaking US law (all age of consent laws are state laws, by the way) If you violate the local age of consent law, you'll be prosecuted in the local country.

However, clearly the government can pass laws that affect what citizens do outside the country, the sex tourism law is one, and obviously the war crimes law is another. The reason you can't be charged for any sex with the sex tourism law is because that's the way the law was written, not because of any intrinsic limitation.

There are a million examples; jeez, the whole prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib took place in Iraq, and yet the various soldiers are being punished under U.S. laws

Under U.S. Millitary law, which is different then the law that applies to civilians. But yes I'm pretty sure you're correct that laws can apply to citizens outside the country, but I think that most of them do not, or are not enforced.

Another example would be laws against bribing foreign officials; it happens in other countries, it's still a crime when you get back.
posted by delmoi at 1:06 PM on September 19, 2006


At the risk of breaking up this wildly tangential debate about the legal status of "enemy combatants" and the rest of it, I'd like to return to the relevant questions raised by Arar's case, which as I understand it are these:

1) By what legal statute did the United States have the authority to detain a Canadian citizen (Arar) charged with no crime?

2) By what legal statute did the United States have the authority to extradict a Canadian citizen to a third-party country (Syria)?

3) By what legal statute moreover did the US have the authority to extradict a Canadian citizen to a third-party country where there was an extremely high likelihood verging on certainty that he would be tortured?

4) By what legal statute did the Canadian intelligence service collude with the US government in these endeavours?

The answers, to my knowledge, are 1) none; 2) none; 3) none; and 4) none.

It was a shameful chapter in Canadian history which is at the very least being reckoned with in a public inquiry in Canada. That the US government does not feel the same obligation to figure out how it behaved in such a criminal manner is beyond comprehension. And that Arar's case has become a springboard for myopic debates about what the Geneva conventions may or may not have to say about torture in general is a rather telling indication of how much even the opponents of this administration have apparently agreed to frame their criticisms in its grotesque terms.

/self-righteous rant
posted by gompa at 1:34 PM on September 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


gompa,

Thank you. That was very well said.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:41 PM on September 19, 2006


Yes, indeed.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:20 PM on September 19, 2006


1) By what legal statute did the United States have the authority to detain a Canadian citizen (Arar) charged with no crime?

Immigration and Nationality Act or successors, probably, governing the deportation of Various Undesirables.

2) By what legal statute did the United States have the authority to extradict a Canadian citizen to a third-party country (Syria)?

Arar is also a Syrian citizen, so they sent him "home." This is a danger of being a dual national. Canada will always see him as Canadian, and presumably Syria will always see him as Syrian. But other countries can pick whether they want to deal with him as a Syrian or as a Canadian; he doesn't get to pick.

None of this is meant as a defense; it was a shitty thing to do. But probably or at least maybe fully legal, as some really shitty things to do to people are.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:13 PM on September 19, 2006


America and Syria, great mates 4evah!
posted by Artw at 3:30 PM on September 19, 2006


ROU_Xenophobe : actually, under international law, nations have a duty to not deport to states where the deportee is likely to be tortured.

That one tends to get hand-waved a lot, and of course nations accept 'diplomatic assurances' that aren't worth the paper they're written on that despotic nation state X won't torture deportee Y, honest guv...
posted by kaemaril at 4:17 PM on September 19, 2006


Pastabagel writes "'Can I search your bag?' 'Can you come with me to the station to discuss this?' You can always say no."

...and then they arrest or detain you for refusing to cooperate. Your point is?

stinkycheese writes "and should get to kick Bill Graham in the balls (or something)"

I can get behind that. He's a twat.

ROU_Xenophobe writes "1) By what legal statute did the United States have the authority to detain a Canadian citizen (Arar) charged with no crime?

"Immigration and Nationality Act or successors, probably, governing the deportation of Various Undesirables."


Er, no... he was in transit. As I understand those laws, being 'in transit' is the same as staying on the plane--you never step on (in this case) USA soil. I could be wrong, but that's the explanation from the travel coordinator (travel agent with 15 years of experience) at my work.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:14 PM on September 19, 2006


impeachment --> removal from office --> extraordinary rendition
posted by neuron at 5:17 PM on September 19, 2006


Torture has never been scientifically studied, because doing so would violate all experimental ethics in psychology.

The Nazis. Enough said.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:29 PM on September 19, 2006


gompa - solid.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:33 PM on September 19, 2006


I'm embarassed by Canada's role in the Arar fuckup. From what I heard on CBC, the RCMP basically primed Customs for picking up Arar as a dangerous radical.

Which, true or not, is not the way such a problem should be handled. We have rule of law and I think it's capable of dealing with the likes of Arar. No need for us to be secretive or tricksterish about it.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:05 PM on September 19, 2006


As I understand those laws, being 'in transit' is the same as staying on the plane--you never step on (in this case) USA soil. I could be wrong

You are wrong, although this has only been the case for a few years. Transit through the U.S. is now equivalent to entering the U.S. and leaving again—if you're not from Canada or a visa-waiver country, you must have a valid visa.
posted by oaf at 9:48 PM on September 19, 2006


Late to the party, but to all those who said: "the only question is whether or not torture is effective" -- can you please tell me what your position would suddenly be if torture was found to be effective?

I'm not sure which is more barbaric: "It's ok because it works" or "It may not work but we're pissed off and really don't give a damn."
posted by dreamsign at 1:45 AM on September 20, 2006


I would dislike torture if it were effective. But its ineffectiveness makes it even worse.

Torture that worked would be immoral but tactically useful, much like firebombing an entire city or nuking a bunch of civilians.

Torture that doesn't work is immoral, useless, and stupid.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:59 AM on September 20, 2006


See, the part where you call torture immoral because it doesn't work is the part where I decide not to turn my back to you any time soon.
posted by dreamsign at 7:02 AM on September 20, 2006


Sorry, my misread. Immoral yet useful.

Yet many here are framing it as their primary objection, seemingly in use against their political opponents who would use any tool in the "war on terror". But what a pathetically weak -- and morally tenuous -- argument that is.

What three blind mice said bears repeating:

The mindset that "these guys have information" seems to me to be justification for torture. At the end of the day, you either torture "detainees" or you do not torture "detainees." America - should not be a nation that tortures anyone for any reason. Period.

And yet we go on and on framing the issue the way our opponents would most like. Does it work or not? Let's debate it. Heck, let's give it a trial run and see.
posted by dreamsign at 7:05 AM on September 20, 2006


Sorry, I should really let this go, but we're talking about TORTURE here. I feel like we must be discussing two different things.

Is nothing so bad that "usefulness" doesn't make it better?
posted by dreamsign at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2006


Add "counter-productive" to the list. It goes without saying that an innocent, but perhaps sympothetic, detainee who is tortured is more likely to become an active terrorist (or at least insurgent) when released -- not to mention the halo effect of his more vocal anti-Americanism among his peers.
posted by LordSludge at 8:20 AM on September 20, 2006


Torture's no good for intelligence--but it's fantastic for generating false confessions. In that sense, it works perfectly well.

dreamsign's right, of course, that it's immoral whether or not it's effective. There are all sorts of horribly effective weapons that we don't deploy on our enemies because it would be morally repugnant to do so: napalm, white phosphorous, A-bombs. . .the list goes on and on.
posted by EarBucket at 9:14 AM on September 20, 2006


EarBucket: There are all sorts of horribly effective weapons that we don't deploy on our enemies because it would be morally repugnant to do so: napalm, white phosphorous, A-bombs. . .the list goes on and on.

Not to nitpick but, ah, Hiroshima, Nagasaki...the US is the only country that has ever dropped A-bombs on people, in fact.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:12 PM on September 20, 2006


Kinda my point, actually.
posted by EarBucket at 1:19 PM on September 20, 2006


I feel so dumb when I miss the irony. Sorry.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:17 PM on September 20, 2006


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