Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Guilty of dishonor of the first degree: America

I wrote of the Aher case in Jan 2004 and again in Feb 2005. The Canadian investigation confirms that Mr. Aher was falsely accused of terrorism by Canadian officials, and that the RCMP may have tried to cover up their error. The judge could not rule directly on the legality or morality of the American action, but the very end of a NYT article summarizes things fairly well:
Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case - New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The FBI lied to the RCMP, then abducted Mr. Aher and sent him to be tortured. There has been no statement, no apology, no offer of compensation from the Bush administration.

Insofar as we are all American citizens, even those of us who've jeered, heckled, berated and campaigned against the neo-GOP and the Bush administration, we share in the responsibility for the kidnapping, torture of this man. In a way, the failure to apologize is almost as loathsome as the policies that led to the crime.

We are guilty of dishonor in the first degree, and we should be pilloried in the stocks.

Update 9/21/06: Hilzoy is very familiar with this case. He brings in some more details on the role torture played in producing the false claims against Mr. Aher. It's easy to understand why Venezualan crackpots win applause every time they mock Bush.

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