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The hounding of Maher Arar
January 26, 2007 9:35 AM   Subscribe

The hounding of Maher Arar
posted by runningdogofcapitalism (37 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Like some kind of "troubled teen", the USA simply can't admit they were wrong.

This is possibly the number one problem facing "western civilization" at this point, imho... and we're royally screwed until the point that the USA finally grows up.
posted by sporb at 9:40 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


PM Harper will apologize publicly to him today.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:45 AM on January 26, 2007


I'd take the hounding for the CAD $10M he's getting in compenstation. Nah, I'd probably just disappear.
posted by spish at 9:46 AM on January 26, 2007


So as part of the settlement I just heard on the radio, our Prime Minister offered a formal apology to Mr. Arar and his family, very nice. But then in the very next breath he blames the mess on the previous government. What a jackass. Yeah, Mr. Harper, we know it was not you in power, way to attempt to garner cheap political points from the mouth breathing masses that have no idea as to the intricate inner workings of a calender.

That really sums up the Harper government thus far for me, they take one step forward, you think "see, they're not so bad, our worst fears about northern neo-coservatisim were unfounded, thankfully". He then takes two steps back.

Then again Dions live reaction on the Bill Good show on CKNW was to call for Mr. Harper to declare what he knew and when. Shut up. He apologized let it go.

So basically all politicians are evil.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:50 AM on January 26, 2007


spish: He's getting compensation for having been falsely labelled a terrorist, extradited to Syria, and tortured for a year. Still want to trade?
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:13 AM on January 26, 2007


All the Canadian papers are covering this story today.

The fact Arar is still on the US no-fly list just goes to show the US is run by assholes.
posted by chunking express at 10:22 AM on January 26, 2007


There's much that still needs to be said about the obvious smokescreen that the White House is putting up on the Arar case--presumably out of fear of setting a precedent that will no doubt be followed by anyone else who has suffered wrongful imprisonment deportation or even torture as a consequence of the supposed war on terror. There's plenty of "I'm sorrys" that ought to be dispensed there.

However, it bears noting that both Prime Minister Harper and Public Security Minister Stockwell Day each has a *lot* to apologize for to Arar and his family--and by that I mean an apology that ought to go well beyond amends for the well-documented duplicity of the Canadian government in Arar's deportation and torture.

When this sad, Kafkaesque story first broke, back when the Conservatives were in Opposition, both Day and Harper wasted no time in crucifying Arar as a "suspected terrorist" (those were Mr. Harper's words as recorded in the House of Commons...where all MPs are immune from being prosecuted for slander). Day chipped in, too, saying that Arar's arrest was proof that Canada wasn't doing enough to weed out the bad guys.

And did either men own up to their slanderous words today when the Prime Minister's Office issued a formal apology (released just a minutes ago)? Hell no.

They're saying it was all the *old* government's fault. Y'know...the one they took to task and criticized back in 2002 for having been working too hard to extradite Arar, the supposed "suspected terrorist" from his Syrian hellhole prison.

Perhaps then this explains the uncharacteristically ballsy move on Day's part this week in sticking to his position--even after being briefed by the Americans on their supposed evidence--that there was still no reason to deny Arar entry into the U.S.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 10:39 AM on January 26, 2007 [7 favorites]


Good analysis, runningdogofcapitalism.

I have to admit, the impression I was getting from various media was that the Canadian government is handling this very well. I assumed it couldn't be quite so rosy, though.

Nevertheless, I'm happy that Canada is, at least superficially, disagreeing with the US over the latter's ever-increasingly dubious policies.
posted by Alex404 at 10:49 AM on January 26, 2007


...we take our cue from the Americans when it comes to security. We assume that they know what they are talking about.

Washington's intransigence on the Arar case blasts a hole in that theory. It is making serious allegations about Arar, perhaps to derail a lawsuit he has filed against the U.S. administration, perhaps for other reasons. Canada's government has seen the American evidence and discounted it. In effect, Day and Harper are saying that America's judgment in this matter is not only unfair but also seriously flawed.

posted by stinkycheese at 10:50 AM on January 26, 2007


Arar's hearing led to the resignation of the Mounties top cop, to public apologies from both governments, and to a systematic review of the anti-terrorist policies of both CSIS and the RCMP.

Couple this with the news that the US administration has just changed the rules to allow the military tribunals 'trying' the prisoners at Gitmo to use hearsay evidence and evidence gathered by torture. Were Arar in Guantanamo Bay, they'd be able to execute him on the 'evidence' -- even though a proper hearing has made it clear he was unjustly detained and is an innocent man. 'Evidence' to this administration is just an echo chamber: if it doesn't repeart what they want to hear they hit it till it does.

Seriously, guys, the US is beginning to look a lot like the Spanish Inquisition: if you're not guilty we'll torture you until you confess, then burn you for the sake of your immortal soul.
posted by jrochest at 10:57 AM on January 26, 2007


Raymond Bonner (NYRB subscribers only, unfortunately) suggests that Americans have been present during interrogation of prisoners abroad.
We don't know, for example, whether Americans are present in the room during the interrogations in Egypt, Syria, and the other places. It is hard to believe they are not. Would the CIA seize someone it considers a dangerous terrorist, fly him at great cost in a private plane to a secret location, and then just leave him in the hands of foreign interrogators, doing no more than supplying questions?...

In Morocco, Binyam [Mohamed] said that his interrogators—"torture team," he called it—included a woman in her early thirties, with blue eyes and blond hair. She told Binyam she was from Canada, but he thought she was American. At one point she said, according to Binyam, "If you don't talk to me, the Americans are getting ready to carry out the torture. They're going to electrocute you, beat you, and rape you."...

Mamdouh Habib, a naturalized Australian born in Egypt, had a similar experience after being picked up in Pakistan in October 2001. According to American and Australian officials, he had trained with al-Qaeda, an allegation Habib will not discuss. During his initial interrogation in Pakistan, an American man and two American women were present, including one who sounds like the woman who interrogated Binyam. He described her as blond, "very beautiful," about thirty-five years old, and able to speak Arabic as well as American English....

Habib was put on a plane and taken to Egypt. He was not wanted there for any terrorist or criminal activity. The torture continued....

One day, he said, he overheard two men, one speaking American English, the other Australian, talking about the questions that they were to ask Habib. During the interrogations, by looking down through the bottom of the bag over his head, he could see two men with files on their knees. One file had a picture of the Sydney Opera House on it. The men wrote in the files. A guard who had befriended Habib told him that one of the men was an American and the other Australian.
posted by russilwvong at 11:04 AM on January 26, 2007


I'd take the hounding for the CAD $10M he's getting in compenstation. Nah, I'd probably just disappear.

That "hounding" included 10 months and 10 days of torture in a Syrian prison and unlike you he didn't glibly volunteer for it.

Shouldn't you have been stopped by the captcha?
posted by srboisvert at 11:07 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good background on the illegal rendition program.

Ara is not the only Canadian caught up in this: "a separate inquiry has been called into the case of three others, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muyyed Nurredin. Former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci is looking into their cases."

And while the settlement is welcome, harper notes that it is being done out of fear that Arar would win his 37 million dollar lawsuit, not necessarily out of a sense of justice. As noted above, Harper and Stockwell Day would surely have approved this process had they been in power, just as surely as they would have sent Canadians to die in the Iraq fiasco. So I give them a C-minus on this issue.
posted by Rumple at 11:16 AM on January 26, 2007


I'd declare fOttawa
posted by hal9k at 12:47 PM on January 26, 2007


The intelligence services of Canada and the US work more closely together than any other two nations in the world.

This case and the American response to the inquiry have me thinking that such close sharing of intelligence should end. And end pretty much unilaterally and immediately.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2007


David Wilkins, the new US ambassador to Canada, has seen it fit to publicly rebuke our foreign minister because this latter, in an uncharacteristic show of balls in defying American "thinking" on the matter, insists that Arar shouldn't be on no-fly lists anymore. Christ, if the Syrians couldn't torture any evidence out of him, it only stands to reason that said evidence doesn't exist.

Personally I think that Wilkins just wanted to show he had all the diplomatic instinct and finesse of his lords and masters. Clearly it's very difficult for Americans to understand that they can do wrong and have done wrong, and that they don't call the shots outside American territory.
posted by clevershark at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2007


"There is no freedom, without human rights". — Woman on media announcment panel with Maher Arar and his lawyer Julian Falconer.

Something those in the USA are getting less and less accustomed to. Now Canadians are regarded as forein visitors by the USA. The requirement to travel into the USA is a passport. Europe has dropped that some time ago.

Not surprising that the US lies when they say they have independent information about Maher Arar. This could mean they went to another person who read a third line, which the others didn't read. Suddenly it's independent information. Sure. So the US is calling Canadians liars. Fucking hell, what bullshit politics.

I'd take the hounding for the CAD $10M he's getting in compenstation. Nah, I'd probably just disappear.—spish
You wouldn't see the money spish, because you wouldn't last a day under torture and the length of time Maher Arer suffered. So STFU.
The US government is no goddamned teenager. Money rules and welcome to a fascist state where state control and monitoring is your freedom.

Ditto, solid-one-love.
posted by alicesshoe at 2:56 PM on January 26, 2007


OT minor note: it's not a quite fair quote for Richard Armitage.

From Bob Woodward's State of Denial:

"Powell and [Deputy Secretary of State] Armitage understood that the White House saw the State Department and its diplomats as appeasers. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice to some extent, would not allow State to engage in diplomacy because diplomacy was considered a weakness. "Their idea of diplomacy," Armitage said to to Powell once, "is to say, 'Look fucker, you do what we want.'""

Armitage was explaning how Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice want to handle "diplomacy," he was not advocating that position himself (afaik).

Just a minor thing, but enough of a mistake to make me doubt the author's credibility.

The whole Arar case certainly does qualify as a Kafkaesque situation, however, as do many of the US actions/policies/statements recently.

/pedant

posted by mrgrimm at 3:25 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


As a Canadian, the handling of this by various government officials and agencies, bottom to top and in the past to now, disgusts me. Although I'm relatively pleased by any Canadian government growing even the tiniest of balls in relation to the States.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:11 PM on January 26, 2007


So what would happen if some high profile Canadian, like Neil Young for example, invited him to stay in their US home?

Would Arar go, and if he did would he be arrested agin?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:48 PM on January 26, 2007


I was surprised to take the CNN quick poll on this subject and to discover that 35% of the respondents felt that the U.S. should not take him off the no fly list even though he's been cleared in Canada. Wild and disappointing.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:58 PM on January 26, 2007


Once again considering employment abroad, I have to remind myself that my (Cdn) government still does very little to protect its citizens outside the country. All fine and well to admist mistakes once they're past -- and well-publicized (especially if you can blame it on a previous government) -- but I see no evidence that Canada is willing to get tough with anyone to protect its countrymen in the present.
posted by dreamsign at 8:55 PM on January 26, 2007


Personally I think that Wilkins just wanted to show he had all the diplomatic instinct and finesse of his lords and masters. Clearly it's very difficult for Americans to understand that they can do wrong and have done wrong, and that they don't call the shots outside American territory.

Do you understand how diplomats operate? Wilkins made those comments, whether he agreed with them or not, because he was told to. If he refused, he'd be out of a job.

I have to remind myself that my (Cdn) government still does very little to protect its citizens outside the country.

It could start by not giving faulty intelligence to the U.S. that its [Canada's] citizens are possibly terrorists when it knows that the U.S. tends to react rather intensely to things like that.
posted by oaf at 11:03 PM on January 26, 2007


Now Canadians are regarded as forein visitors by the USA.

And when weren't they?

Should Maher Arar be taken off the various lists he's on? (Is it sad that Stockwell Day is the trustworthy party in this scenario?) Almost certainly.
Does Canada, legally or morally, have the prerogative to insist that Arar be removed from those lists? Not at all.

Not that he's actually a threat, but he would be more likely to be one now that he has both a legitimate grievance against the United States and millions of dollars.
posted by oaf at 11:14 PM on January 26, 2007


Thanks. I needed reminding of these asshole's previous behaviour. Anyone expresses anything but support for Arar is going to get an earful from me.

Less than fifty cents per Canuck to pay for our leaders' casual evil. That's a helluva deal for us citizens, IMO, we got off cheap.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:21 PM on January 26, 2007


Now Canadians are regarded as forein visitors by the USA.

And when weren't they?


I'm assuming that you are being humorously obtuse or splitting semantic hairs because you live close enough to the border to know that Canada and the United States had a long standing agreement on border crossing that people could cross the border without a passport. Of course that was before the United States decided that the best way to defend itself was to act as if the entire world was their enemy.
posted by srboisvert at 5:14 AM on January 27, 2007


I'm assuming that you are being humorously obtuse or splitting semantic hairs because you live close enough to the border to know that Canada and the United States had a long standing agreement on border crossing that people could cross the border without a passport. Of course that was before the United States decided that the best way to defend itself was to act as if the entire world was their enemy.

And that means that Canadians weren't foreign? They had the same rights as U.S. citizens (or even permanent residents) in the U.S.? I'm not being obtuse, and I'm not splitting hairs. Perhaps you need a refresher on the meaning of foreign.
posted by oaf at 9:37 AM on January 27, 2007


oaf,
Demanding someone be taken off a watch list in the US isn't the right way of negotiating to yes, but that is the way media stated it. Did he demand or was Stockwell Day subtler. We'll really not know what words SD used to frame the issue....

Although it is the USA's sandbox, should there not be proof before being judged guilty¿ What happened to due process and innocent till Proven guilty. If the Canadian government cleared him of all 'guilt' by an apology and cash settlement, does that not mean a damn¿ It's also the reason why he's suing the USA, to get his day in court and clear his name. Hit a man in the wallet and things become clearer for that man, right¿ Let's look at the facts — get it out in the open instead of shovelling it under the carpet as is the want of the USA.

Your statement "he would be more likely to be one now that he has both a legitimate grievance against the United States and millions of dollars" is quite offensive. You haven't truly followed his story and the amount of courage the man has to clear his name instead of just throwing up his hands and saying oh, I'll never get justice because it's such a machine and everyone will just cover up their mistakes. He certainly doesn't come across as being vengeful as you state.

Justice O'Connor clearly wrote where they were made and some heads rolled and hopefully they will make changes to avoid persecuting innocent people by hearesay.


srboisvert,
yes I live close to the border and my sister lives in the US, Not close to the border. Yes, because of the long standing agreement on border crossing but moreso because of the amount of trade between Canada and the USA and it's economic impact on Canada. It's hard being the china when the bull steps into the china shop. Do you like your ass over a barrel¿ I won't get into USA farmer's subsidies.
It was enough to produce a driver's license or birth certificate. Your statement saying "the best way to defend itself was to act as if the entire world was their enemy." Look at USA's foreign policy and wonder why¿ The 'terrorists' came from within partially because of the USA's own lack of inter agency communications. So go ahead, blame others. That'll make it good. It's about controlling the masses within, frankly.
As I mentioned, look what Europe has done regarding 'globalization' and travel between countries. Nuff said.
Build your Berlin wall USA. Wait, that's already happening along the Mexican border, right¿
Xenophobia and ultra nationalism is rising people. Did it do the Germans in WWII any good and have we not learned a thing.
posted by alicesshoe at 10:18 AM on January 27, 2007


Last I heard, the U.S. still claimed "evidence" of Arar's guilt. Evidence that can't be shown to Canadian authorities, of course. (as an aside, the last time I heard that, it was WMD's, and we decided to not take their word for it)

It doesn't make sense that exoneration in Canada should automatically lead to the same decision in the U.S., but it should definitely be considered if this "evidence" (if there is any) is at all unclear or unsubstantiated.

As for Arar being dangerous now because of his ordeal, he was front page of the CBC most of yesterday, with a big smile, quoted saying "Harper's apology means the world". Personally, I think he's letting them off easy -- an apology is meaningless if there is no sense that this could not happen again to someone else.

Also, what an inhumane attitude that is of yours oaf, I have to say. I suppose were you to find evidence that some of your 2 million prisoners are innocent, you should be even more willing to throw away the key since they'll now harbor righteous anger against society. Is there no room in your worldview for forgiveness? What about responsibility?
posted by dreamsign at 12:01 PM on January 27, 2007


As (another) Canadian, and not necessarily a fan of PM Harper, I am happy that this government has settled as fast as it has, and for what I think is a reasonable settlement (though I freely admit you can't always put a monetary value on suffering and distress). I sincerely hope it helps him and his family to get on with a more or less normal life.

The misinformation the RCMP passed to the US is one thing; I am more upset about how Canada left Mr Arar to "rot" there for so long, without a concerted and public effort to get him out.

Does Canada, legally or morally, have the prerogative to insist that Arar be removed from those lists? Not at all.

The more important question is why he would still be on the list? Either there there IS a reason for him to be there (not likely, given all the findings to the contrary), or ...what? More of the same from that friendly administration that brought you Gitmo and rendition, I guess.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:04 PM on January 27, 2007


Your statement "he would be more likely to be one now that he has both a legitimate grievance against the United States and millions of dollars" is quite offensive.

It was pretty obvious that it wasn't serious. Save your outrage for something that's actually worth it.
posted by oaf at 3:23 PM on January 27, 2007


Also, what an inhumane attitude that is of yours oaf, I have to say.

Outrage over obvious sarcasm is not a sign of intelligence.
posted by oaf at 3:27 PM on January 27, 2007


And by that, I mean: alicesshoe and dreamsign, can you actually read my entire fucking comment (especially the beginning) before launching into me for no reason at all?
posted by oaf at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2007


And that means that Canadians weren't foreign? They had the same rights as U.S. citizens (or even permanent residents) in the U.S.? I'm not being obtuse, and I'm not splitting hairs. Perhaps you need a refresher on the meaning of foreign.

A reasonable person would have made an effort to understand the other persons point - which obviously had to do with the preexisting travel relationship.

You are attacking a minor wording mistake as if it was the point being made rather than trying to understand what the person was trying to convey.
posted by srboisvert at 3:37 PM on January 27, 2007


You are attacking a minor wording mistake

Before the travel deadline, immigration agents on both sides of the border verified residency and citizenship.

Now, after the travel deadline, immigration agents on both sides of the border verify residency and citizenship.

What is the difference between the information they ask for now, and the information they asked for five years ago? (Hint: there's not one.)
posted by oaf at 4:19 PM on January 27, 2007


entire comment:

Should Maher Arar be taken off the various lists he's on? (Is it sad that Stockwell Day is the trustworthy party in this scenario?) Almost certainly.
Does Canada, legally or morally, have the prerogative to insist that Arar be removed from those lists? Not at all.

Not that he's actually a threat, but he would be more likely to be one now that he has both a legitimate grievance against the United States and millions of dollars.
posted by oaf at 4:14 PM JST on January 27 [+]


So the small print means you didn't mean that last paragraph? Weaseling out of your own words is not a sign of integrity, oaf. If there is sarcasm there, it's entirely in your own head, as the message there is consistent with the rest of your comment -- Canada does not have the prerogative to insist on Arar's removal from the list and he's more likely to be a threat now.

If you were being sarcastic, consider the average MeFite not a mind-reader. Inability to hold a consistent external dialogue is not a sign of lucidity.

Also, you replied to my comment denouncing the Canadian response as if I had said exactly the opposite. Eponysterical.
posted by dreamsign at 10:29 PM on January 27, 2007


oaf,
I read the Wilkins quote and your response to it. My response was about what you stated after that.
Let's go back to your idea of what a diplomat's^ job is. To whit, keeping his job over and above that the job should be carried out honestly and that they should have some backbone and stand up for the rights of someone who is persecuted and not take a country like Syria's word.
Yes the RCMP gave misinformation. Justice O'Connor addressed that issue, heads rolled.

Artful Codger,
Yes, thanks for reminding me that initially someone from the Canadian embassy, I believe, visited Maher Arar and said "He didn't look like he was being tortured".

First it's passports, then passports with RFID's. Real ID Act
posted by alicesshoe at 7:10 AM on January 28, 2007


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