January 11, 2004

The Maher Arar Case

Impeach George Bush and Richard Cheney. Impeach them now. We are the United States of America. We do not do things like this.

Christopher Pyle writes about the Maher Arar case:

Torture by proxy / How immigration threw a traveler to the wolves: On Sept. 26, 2002, U.S. immigration officials seized a Syrian-born Canadian at Kennedy International Airport, because his name had come up on an international watch list for possible terrorists. What happened next is chilling.

Maher Arar was about to change planes on his way home to Canada after visiting his wife's family in Tunisia when he was pulled aside for questioning. He was not a terrorist. He had no terrorist connections, but his name was on the list, so he was detained for questioning. Not ordinary, polite questioning, but abusive, insulting, degrading questioning by the immigration service, the FBI and the New York City Police Department.

He asked for a lawyer and was told he could not have one. He asked to call his family, but phone calls were not permitted. Instead, he was clapped into shackles and, for several days, made to "disappear." His family was frantic.

Finally, he was allowed to make a call. His government expected that Arar's right of safe passage under its passport would be respected. But it wasn't. Arar denied any connection to terrorists. He was not accused of any crimes, but U.S. agents wanted him questioned further by someone whose methods might be more persuasive than theirs.

So, they put Arar on a private plane and flew him to Washington, D.C. There, a new team, presumably from the CIA, took over and delivered him, by way of Jordan, to Syrian interrogators. This covert operation was legal, our Justice Department later claimed, because Arar is also a citizen of Syria by birth. The fact that he was a Canadian traveling on a Canadian passport, with a wife, two children and job in Canada, and had not lived in Syria for 16 years, was ignored. The Justice Department wanted him to be questioned by Syrian military intelligence, whose interrogation methods our government has repeatedly condemned.

The Syrians locked Arar in an underground cell the size of a grave: 3 feet wide, 6 feet long, 7 feet high. Then they questioned him, under torture, repeatedly, for 10 months. Finally, when it was obvious that their prisoner had no terrorist ties, they let him go, 40 pounds lighter, with a pronounced limp and chronic nightmares.

Why was Arar on our government's watch list? Because "multiple international intelligence agencies" had linked him to terrorist groups. How many agencies? Two. What had they reported? Not much.

The Syrians believed that Arar might be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Why? Because a cousin of his mother's had been, nine years earlier, long after Arar moved to Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported that the lease on Arar's apartment had been witnessed by a Syrian- born Canadian who was believed to know an Egyptian Canadian whose brother was allegedly mentioned in an al Qaeda document.

That's it. That's all they had: guilt by the most remote of computer- generated associations. But, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft, that was more than enough to justify Arar's delivery to Syria's torturers.

Besides, Ashcroft added, the torturers had expressly promised that they would not torture him.

Our intelligence agencies have a name for this torture-by-proxy. They call it "extraordinary rendition." As one intelligence official explained: "We don't kick the s -- out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the s -- out of them."

This secret program for torturing suspects has been authorized, if that is the right word for it, by a secret presidential finding. Where the president gets the authority to have anyone tortured has never been explained.

It is time someone asked. What our government did to Maher Arar is worse than anything the British did to our Colonial forefathers. It was worse than anything J. Edgar Hoover did to alleged Communists, civil rights workers and anti-war activists during his long program of dirty tricks.

According to the Bush administration, we are at "war" with al Qaeda. If so, then delivering a suspect to torturers is a war crime and should be prosecuted as such. But first, we need to know who was responsible, and that will not be easy -- unless there is a firestorm of protest.

Isn't it time to condemn torture by proxy and demand prosecution of the persons responsible? Isn't it time to question how these watch lists are assembled and used, before more of us fall victim to secret detentions and brutal interrogations based on guilt by computerized associations?

Posted by DeLong at January 11, 2004 08:35 AM | TrackBack

Comments

This is terrible. Does anyone know if we did this during the Clinton, Bush I, or Reagan Administrations? I don't think that sending people abroad for torture is a new practice. Since I don't have any evidence, let me remain hypothetical: If this practice occured during the Clinton years, you would say he should have been removed from office too, right?

Anyway, the practice clearly needs to stop. Even if you didn't know that torture is never okay, it should be stopped because it damages the US by more by undermining our global credibility as a moral, free, and open society than it gains us in info.

Posted by: A-ro on January 11, 2004 08:47 AM

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Evidently you've been out of country for the last few years, Professor DeLong.

Of course we do these things in what America has become. They began on 9/11, when thousands of people were detained without charges.

As nasty as the Arar case is, it doesn't compare with allegations (well-documented allegations) of mass executions of Taliban prisoners, torture at Bagram air base and other human rights violations. The holding of youn teens at Guantanamo is particularly despicable.

The FBI is targeting known peaceful protestors. A judge in Miami reports that he witnessed the police, who had been working with federal authorities, committing about 2 dozen felonies in the course of dealing with a peaceful demonstration.

And Dick Cheney and George Bush promise us this "war" will go on for perhaps a generation. If they had an ounce of real humility, they would not assert that any subsequent Administration would be bound to follow their own extreme path. But they can be certain that the "war" will go on so long because they or their picked successors will go on.

Posted by: Charles on January 11, 2004 08:53 AM

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We have a Canadian office with an employee whos name must be on some list. He's an internationally known software engineer with a wife and kid.

At this point he all but refuses to travel to the U.S. he is hassled so much at point of entry. There is nothing we can do about it. One of the security screeners is a neighbor who knows him, but if he doesn't get questioned by her it's off to the side room for no apparent reason. Often he misses his plane even though he he arrive 2-3 hours early.

I feel so much safer. Don't you?

Posted by: Alan on January 11, 2004 09:27 AM

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A-ro, you seem to be ignorant of recent American history. I am not trying to insult you, here, but just point out that you are casting aspersions-- throwing up the "They all do it" defense-- without knowing what you're talking about.

1. The US has, in the past, conducted torture and assassination of civilians (cf Operation Phoenix, Vietnam.) It has even tested biological weapons and the fallout from nuclear weapons on American soldiers.

2. The US has even murdered American civilians (cf. Cointelpro).

3. These abuses were unearthed in the 1970s (by Democrats, I might point out) and laws enacted to try to prevent further abuses.

4. In the 1980s, the Reagan Administration resurrected some of these abuses. There seems to have been CIA involvement in an Operation Phoenix like campaign in Central America. The Reagan Administration also engaged in serious assaults against American liberties, and GHW Bush was deeply involved. The FBI settled a lawsuit filed by CISPES. But there seem to have been plans put in place for mass internments of Americans. Still, thanks to a Democratic Congress, these abuses were unearthed.

5. No such abuses are known to have occurred under Clinton. As records emerge, that may change, but that's what we know at present. In any event, numerous known terrorists were tried according to law, covicted and jailed. No one was held incommunicado, subjected to "torture lite" or deported to rogue nations for torture heavy.

6. The abuses already reported under Bush II are more serious than anything that I know of, short of the murders committed under Cointelpro. Operation Phoenix is back in full swing. Hundreds if not thousands of innocent civilians have already died.

Posted by: Charles on January 11, 2004 10:04 AM

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This is terrible, but what's more terrible is that so few people care. We have been scared into becoming a totalitarian state. Some shrug it off and rationalize it because he is a foreigner ("as a foreigner he has no rights inside the USA") whereas others are happy about it, saying it was time we stopped coddling the Arabs and fought back. I'm not making this up, I've people say these things.

One of the saddest things since 9/11, after the loss of life, is that so many Americans have stopped even pretending to love freedom, and have turned into cowards clutching for an authoritarian strong man to save them.

Posted by: Nate on January 11, 2004 10:15 AM

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I keep saying this, but I just can't see how any libertarian can even reotely consider voting for Bush. People I've talked to point out that the Democrats have given no recent signs of being better than Bush on this issue. Be that as it may, it seems very unlikely that they're worse, and the Bush practice (not just this case, but their whole domestic security program and their whole legal package) is totally unconscionable. And it's not just state-of-emergency stuff -- they're rewriting the law.

I obviously have an axe to grind. I'm not a libertarian, though I am a civil-libertarian liberal and have problems supporting corporate Democrats who seem to be unaware of the issue. Still, if the libertarians in this country don't vote for a Libertarian for President this year, or the Democrat if he shows any signs of awareness of the stuff we're talking about, the whole libertarian movement should just pass out of existence and be forgotten. It's at critical turning points like this that you find out whether someone's ideal are real or phony.

Leaving the ballot blank doesn't cut it. It says nothing and does nothing.

As I also keep saying, some people have a bitter animosity of the Democratic party which I think cannot be explained except by blind, demented hatred. None of the viable Democratic candidate except possibly Gephardt is extremist on anything.

Posted by: Zizka on January 11, 2004 10:20 AM

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Speaking of human rights abuses under the current regime, I strongly suggest reading the following allegations: http://electroniciraq.net/news/1313.shtml

This is the sort of thing Operation Phoenix was famous for. Especially the getting-the-wrong man part.

Posted by: Charles on January 11, 2004 10:54 AM

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"This secret program for torturing suspects has been authorized, if that is the right word for it, by a secret presidential finding. Where the president gets the authority to have anyone tortured has never been explained."

I have a good idea what that finding was based on, at least in part.

Sometime in Early spring 2002 James Olsen, a former CIA soviet spy and faculty member at the Texas A&M Bush school came to my small commuter campus to speak. In the afternoon he addressed a seminar I was taking on the US response to the 9/11 events. He was very weird in that class, but even weirder was the talk he gave that night. He actually polled the audience on whether the US should transfer prisoners to other countries to be tortured. The overwhelming response in the nearly-packed auditorium was "yes." The audience also supported by a show of hands the need for intelligence agents to disguise themselves as aide workers and journalists. All these votes took place in the context of Olsen's spiel about poor our "humint" was in the region. No talk of how journalist and aide workers -- and the work they do -- would be put at risk; whenever he polled the audience hands flew up without discussion or thought. It was a truly disturbing experience, and I suspect similar ones took place round the country to determine what public reaction would be when stories of torture inevitably made their way into the press -- it was political polling, pure and simple. The only thing the audience didn't support was torture of suspects on American ground. Thus Guatanamo, Mr. Arar's horror story and god knows what else.

Posted by: CS on January 11, 2004 10:57 AM

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Zizka, I am a registered Libertarian and this election cycle will vote Democratic, hopefully for Dean. While normally I cast my libertarian votes as a symbolic gesture, in the current environment it seems petty to endulge in romantic ideology when a democratic vote might actually affect change. Of course, it makes it easier for me that I think any non-Bush candidate would do more to support my interpretation of Libertarian policy than Bush.

Posted by: chris on January 11, 2004 10:59 AM

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"This secret program for torturing suspects has been authorized, if that is the right word for it, by a secret presidential finding. Where the president gets the authority to have anyone tortured has never been explained."

I have a good idea what that finding was based on, at least in part.

Sometime in Early spring 2002 James Olsen, a former CIA soviet spy and faculty member at the Texas A&M Bush school came to my small commuter campus to speak. In the afternoon he addressed a seminar I was taking on the US response to the 9/11 events. He was very weird in that class, but even weirder was the talk he gave that night. He actually polled the audience on whether the US should transfer prisoners to other countries to be tortured. The overwhelming response in the nearly-packed auditorium was "yes." The audience also supported by a show of hands the need for intelligence agents to disguise themselves as aide workers and journalists. All these votes took place in the context of Olsen's spiel about poor our "humint" was in the region. No talk of how journalist and aide workers -- and the work they do -- would be put at risk; whenever he polled the audience hands flew up without discussion or thought. It was a truly disturbing experience. I suspect similar talks took place round the country to determine what public reaction would be when stories of torture made their way into the press -- it was political polling, pure and simple. The only thing the audience didn't support was torture of suspects on American ground. Thus Guatanamo, Mr. Arar's horror story and god knows what else.

Posted by: CS on January 11, 2004 11:01 AM

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"This secret program for torturing suspects has been authorized, if that is the right word for it, by a secret presidential finding. Where the president gets the authority to have anyone tortured has never been explained."

I have a good idea what that finding was based on, at least in part.

Sometime in Early spring 2002 James Olsen, a former CIA soviet spy and faculty member at the Texas A&M Bush school came to my small commuter campus to speak. In the afternoon he addressed a seminar I was taking on the US response to the 9/11 events. He was very weird in that class, but even weirder was the talk he gave that night. He actually polled the audience on whether the US should transfer prisoners to other countries to be tortured. The overwhelming response in the nearly-packed auditorium was "yes." The audience also supported by a show of hands the need for intelligence agents to disguise themselves as aide workers and journalists. All these votes took place in the context of Olsen's spiel about poor our "humint" was in the region. No talk of how journalists and aide workers -- and the work they do -- would be put at risk; whenever he polled the audience hands flew up without discussion or thought. It was a truly disturbing experience. I suspect similar talks took place round the country to determine what public reaction would be when stories of torture made their way into the press -- it was political polling, pure and simple. The only thing the audience didn't support was torture of suspects on American ground. Thus Guatanamo, Mr. Arar's horror story and god knows what else.

Posted by: cs on January 11, 2004 11:07 AM

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This story is old, how come you yanks are finally thinking about it?

Posted by: big al on January 11, 2004 11:17 AM

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Pictures, wide US audience needs pictures. Presidential election is coming - Bush's smiling face next to some tortured guy or that Iraqi kid who had his hands blown off should do wonders.

Posted by: Leopold on January 11, 2004 11:30 AM

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Meta-meta comment: Brad, whatever server is hosting your comments script is (and has been for a while) really, REALLY slow. Hence all the comment dups.

Posted by: Doctor Memory on January 11, 2004 11:40 AM

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As a matter of interest, how many people who read this website would have cared about the treatment meted out to this gentleman if he HAD turned out to be a dangerous terrorist? I'm just curious, not trying to make a point or anything.

I think that torture is completely wrong whatever the circumstances, unless you're 100% sure the guy has a nuclear weapon hidden in New York or something, but I wonder what others think.

Posted by: PJ on January 11, 2004 11:42 AM

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big al:

Yes, the story is old, but it has been largely dropped in Canada over the last few weeks. It's about time people started bringing it up again, and unfortunately it looks like that has to happen outside Canada.

Posted by: Tom Slee on January 11, 2004 11:46 AM

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"...Especially the getting-the-wrong man part...."

The keystone of the rural American philosophy of law enforcement is the notion that the deterrent effect of punishment does not depend upon getting the right man.

Pull this thread, and the full moral horror of rural America--and of its front organization, the Republican Party--is revealed in due course. Nothing in human history exceeds it, unless by a thin and debatable margin.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on January 11, 2004 12:01 PM

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"This secret program for torturing suspects has been authorized, if that is the right word for it, by a secret presidential finding. Where the president gets the authority to have anyone tortured has never been explained."

I have a good idea what that finding was based on, at least in part.

Sometime in Early spring 2002 James Olsen, a former CIA soviet spy and faculty member at the Texas A&M Bush school came to my small commuter campus to speak. In the afternoon he addressed a seminar I was taking on the US response to the 9/11 events. He was very weird in that class, but even weirder was the talk he gave that night. He actually polled the audience on whether the US should transfer prisoners to other countries to be tortured. The overwhelming response in the nearly-packed auditorium was "yes." The audience also supported by a show of hands the need for intelligence agents to disguise themselves as aide workers and journalists. All these votes took place in the context of Olsen's spiel about poor our "humint" was in the region. No talk of how journalists and aide workers -- and the work they do -- would be put at risk; whenever he polled the audience hands flew up without discussion or thought. It was a truly disturbing experience. I suspect similar talks took place round the country to determine what public reaction would be when stories of torture made their way into the press -- it was political polling, pure and simple. The only thing the audience didn't support was torture of suspects on American ground. Thus Guatanamo, Mr. Arar's horror story and god knows what else.

Posted by: cs on January 11, 2004 12:12 PM

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Sorry about the multiple sends. According to my computer the sent page never stopped loading, so I hit reload a couple of times, went away, came back and tried again!

Posted by: cs on January 11, 2004 12:18 PM

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Charles:

"...No such abuses are known to have occurred under Clinton...."

This reminds of a management principle, I think I saw it in an old book by one Richard White -- Entreprenuer's Manual.. it goes something like this:

"First rate people hire first rate people. Second rate people hire third rate people and then these third rate people hire the bulk of your employees."

Posted by: bulent on January 11, 2004 01:30 PM

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Doctor Memory wrote, "Meta-meta comment: Brad, whatever server is hosting your comments script is (and has been for a while) really, REALLY slow. Hence all the comment dups."

I've been reading this site for quite a while now, and the comment dup problem has always been around.

The fix I advise people (it's never failed me):
1. Hit "post".
2. Wait just a little (as little as a second will do), then hit "preview".

From my experience, your comment will be posted, and if it's not, it's still recorded in the preview pane. Don't hit post again, of course...

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on January 11, 2004 02:42 PM

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Frank Wilhoit writes: The keystone of the rural American philosophy of law enforcement is the notion that the deterrent effect of punishment does not depend upon getting the right man.
Pull this thread, and the full moral horror of rural America--and of its front organization, the Republican Party--is revealed in due course. Nothing in human history exceeds it, unless by a thin and debatable margin.

Trolling, Frank? Or do you have cites to back that rather extraordinary statement up?


Posted by: Steven Rogers on January 11, 2004 03:21 PM

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Why do people act as if actions such as those of Syria are some immutable act of nature, rather then the concious act of human beings?

Is it because we don't expect exotic brown people to behave any better?

Posted by: me on January 11, 2004 03:48 PM

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Big Al asks, "This story is old, how come you yanks are finally thinking about it?"

Answer: American media have not covered it. Notice that the newspaper it is in is one of the few liberal, independent newspapers in the country.

____________________________


Mr. Wilhoit, I can assure you that rural America is no more morally defective than urban America. Nowhere in American justice is there the notion that murdering the innocent will deter the guilty. While the South is famous for lynch mobs, some of the worst miscarriages of justice have occurred in the urban north.

Like the Arar case, for example.

________________________

Bulent says, ""First rate people hire first rate people. Second rate people hire third rate people and then these third rate people hire the bulk of your employees."

The latter could explain several corporations I know.

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Me says, "Why do people act as if actions such as those of Syria are some immutable act of nature, rather then the concious act of human beings?
Is it because we don't expect exotic brown people to behave any better?"

Syria is no more brutal than, say, Saudi Arabia in its treatment of suspects. What is different is that the US press can be guaranteed not to report any allegation made by a Syrian except in tones of scorn and contempt.


Posted by: Charles on January 11, 2004 04:22 PM

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The fact is, nothing will happen as a result of this. Americans have the worst of attributes: fearful and arrogant. Just look at the vehicles people drive. Listen to them talk. Bush, Cheney et al. in fact do represent the people. That is the worst part of it all.

Posted by: Andy Mayo on January 11, 2004 05:59 PM

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How is it Syria's doing some of our torturing for us, since they're supposed to be our enemies?

Posted by: Lee A. on January 11, 2004 06:28 PM

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"...How is it Syria's doing some of our torturing for us, since they're supposed to be our enemies?..."

That's easy: Syrians and Americans believing their respective countries to be enemies serves interests of Messrs. Bush and Assad, making it easier for them to suppress democracy and stay in power and continue to exploit their own respective peoples. So they manage to make their peoples to believe that they are enemies. And they use the media for it.

Posted by: bulent on January 11, 2004 08:15 PM

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Bulent writes: That's easy: Syrians and Americans believing their respective countries to be enemies serves interests of Messrs. Bush and Assad, making it easier for them to suppress democracy and stay in power and continue to exploit their own respective peoples. So they manage to make their peoples to believe that they are enemies. And they use the media for it.

You are such an idiot.

Posted by: Leopold on January 11, 2004 09:05 PM

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Bulent writes: That's easy: Syrians and Americans believing their respective countries to be enemies serves interests of Messrs. Bush and Assad, making it easier for them to suppress democracy and stay in power and continue to exploit their own respective peoples. So they manage to make their peoples to believe that they are enemies. And they use the media for it.

You are such an idiot.

Posted by: Leopold on January 11, 2004 09:10 PM

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Let the smart one speak his peace, then.

Posted by: bulent on January 11, 2004 09:21 PM

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I mean, "piece"...

Posted by: bulent on January 11, 2004 09:27 PM

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I don't know where to start. (And the "Armageddon" thread contains a quote of Mr. Arar's quite sickening public statement about the "incident".)

I don't know much about the Dark Ages, but this so reminds me of what little I know, like the inquisition proceedings that were also carried out based on faint allegations, hearsay, "profiling" certain groups -- suspected witches, people outside the mainstream, denunciations of rivals, etc., and probably also driven by pressure on the inquisitors to "perform". Given the social environment of the Dark Ages it is hard to say to which extent those persecutions were motivated by "genuine" exorcism or by power politics. Stalin's persecution of "counter-revolutionaries" went by a similar scheme as the inquisition, and it is known that the investigators had quotas of how many counter-revolutionaries to "deliver" per time and region.

I'm not saying the terrorism investigations operate in that mode, and I actually don't believe it -- I think they are motivated by genuine desire to fight terrorism, but at least the superficial appearance reminds me of it. But the counterterrorism apparatus clearly lacks some serious oversight and rules that are appropriate in a democratic society. At the times of the Inquisition and Stalin, there was no internationally agreed Human Rights standard (?), but today it is there, and there is no excuse.

This does not increase my confidence in the future of the Western society. As a lay historian and sociologist, I suspect if you were to plot a good measure of the economic, scientific, and social performance of a society against the degree of the freedom of the individual, you would get a strong positive correlation. Don't be fooled by scientific and technological progresses in Nazi Germany or the post-WWII Soviet Union; those were relatively short periods, and progress in science and technology keeps its momentum for a while.

Posted by: cm on January 11, 2004 10:02 PM

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The difference between this case and the various alleged miscarriages of justice abroad is that there is no way to pretend it was carried out in the fog of war. Somebody directed the INS to deport a Canadian citizen to Syria to be tortured. There was no evidence that the guy was a terrorist. It's pretty obvious that the potential downside, politically, is much greater than any possible benefit. Not only is it outrageous behavior, it is prima facie evidence of executive incompetence.

Posted by: p mac on January 12, 2004 12:07 AM

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All of this goes to Brad's frontis, "impeach Bush", to which I'd provide this anecdote:

When the first Patriot Act came out only 17 days after 911, I wrote wildly imaginative diatribes against this denigration of our rights. All my friends cried out, "How can you *say* that, when so many thousands (of Americans) just died!?"

Of course, they were in denial following shock, and in denial of what we were doing in the Gulf
and in Guantanemo (and all over the globe).

A year later, I upped the ante, with newsclips, foreign press coverage of Bush Administration's foul agenda, then as the war in Iraq began to go south, I began shouting for Bush's impeachment.

My friends and associates largely blocked my e-mail address and told me to f&*k off, "Bush is a Great Man, and it's about time Defense got more money than Welfare illegals too lazy to work, put all Arabs in Guantanemo, kill Commies...." and that's the last I heard from any of them.

(Nice friends... ;)

There is a deep and abiding hatred for Clinton, and Democrats in general, on the so-called Left Coast, and a thriving John Birch, Good Ol' Boy, white network that's going to vote Bush in, on the back of Arnold, Star Wars, and cheap labor.
Texas has been rejiggered so Republicans will carry that state, and New York is riding high on the back of $10Bs in federal aid and media joie de vivre, and Florida, well, we know Florida's governor and making aliens legal and revamping Cape Canaveral to Mars. It's almost transparent!

There's gonna be a total landslide, ala Reagan.
If you don't believe that, just take a look at
The Demo's Magnificent(ly Incompetent) Seven. Where are Laurel & Hardy now that we need them!?

On the flip side, once Bush is in and Cheney is out, replaced with some former General or screw, the next four years'll make this last four look like an ice cream social. Quit yer' bitchin'!!

Posted by: Pierre Ponaporte on January 12, 2004 12:48 AM

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I'm afraid there is a lot of truth to that analysis. One hope, though, is that it ignores the rest of the country.

Posted by: bulent on January 12, 2004 01:56 AM

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Zizka wrote:

I keep saying this, but I just can't see how any libertarian can even reotely consider voting for Bush.

Easy, because Bush is demonstrably better than any of the likely Democratic nominees on a whole host of issues (e.g. Social Security reform, taxes, regulatory and tort reform, judicial nominees, school choice, medical savings accounts, national sovereignty) and on the major ones he’s not very good on (e.g. spending, trade protectionism, expanding the size of government), each of the likely Democratic nominees is demonstrably worse.

People I've talked to point out that the Democrats have given no recent signs of being better than Bush on this issue. Be that as it may, it seems very unlikely that they're worse, blockquote>

Actually, it is quite likely that they are worse given the above-listed issues along with the previous administration’s own excesses (e.g. Ruby Ridge, Elian Gonzales, etc.).

and the Bush practice (not just this case, but their whole domestic security program and their whole legal package) is totally unconscionable. And it's not just state-of-emergency stuff -- they're rewriting the law.

How so? I like most people am no more or less “free” from a civil liberties perspective than I was pre-9/11 despite the chicken-little stories we keep hearing about the Evil Patriot Act which usually turn out to be much ado about nothing.

Libertarians may find much to dislike about the Bush administration but it would be complete insanity to vote for any of the Democratic nominees when they are so clearly worse.

Posted by: Thorley Winston on January 12, 2004 10:00 AM

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Arar's case is the one thing that might make me vote for one of the Dems. I'm really outraged that the President isn't more outraged about this - it's similar to the inaction/ennui about Plame, but much much worse.

Posted by: J Mann on January 12, 2004 10:01 AM

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Brad DeLong wrote:


Impeach George Bush and Richard Cheney. Impeach them now.


I am sure that there were a few on the fringe Right who said much the same thing about Bill Clinton post-Ruby Ridge and post-Elian Gonzales.

It would seem then that Brad Delong has just become the Jerry Falwell of his party.


Posted by: Thorley Winston on January 12, 2004 10:08 AM

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Impeach Bush is a bit strong. Not that the Republicans didn't try to impeach Clinton for doing so much as burp in public, but two wrongs don't make a right. Just vote the bum out in 2004.

The Arar case underlines the basic challenge of all extreme security measures : MISTAKES HAPPEN.
So, if you know that mistakes will happen, how do you set up your system so that the impact of these mistakes is minimised.
Arar's name showed up on a list of suspect people because the Canadian Security and Intelligence Services saw him have lunch with the brother of someone who was considered AL Queda. But you know, six degrees of separation, I probalbly have had luch with people one or two degrees removed from some sort of despicable activity. It is the nature of human contact. Plus the muslim community in Ottawa is probably not that large so the likelyhood of getting on a suspect list was higher if simple association is the selection criterea. So the guy was on a watch list in Canada.

The real dispicable issue is the fact he was sent to Syria instead of Canada on his way home from Tunesia. I mean, the American government would go ape if another country pulled that trick. And in a situation where you know the system will make mistakes, it just seems foolish.
We should trust ourselves to investigate our own secutiry risks. I hope the INS and the senior branches of the Homeland office eat a fistfull of criticism over this and never do it again. Its morally depraved. A good civil suit might work too, but I am sure the patriot act makes such recourse illegal

Posted by: Scott McArthur on January 12, 2004 10:18 AM

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Brad DeLong wrote:

"Impeach George Bush and Richard Cheney. Impeach them now."

I am sure that there were a few on the fringe Right who said much the same thing about Bill Clinton post-Ruby Ridge and post-Elian Gonzales.

It would seem then that Brad Delong has just become the Jerry Falwell of his party

Posted by: Thorley Winston on January 12, 2004 10:39 AM

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I submit for analysis:

This:

"A senior Justice Department official personally approved sending a Syrian-born Canadian citizen suspected of terrorist links to Syria last year after consulting with CIA officials, according to U.S. officials.

Then-Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson, in his capacity as acting attorney general, signed the highly unusual order, citing national security and declaring that to send the man, Maher Arar, home to Canada would be "prejudicial to the interests of the United States," according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity."


Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59678-2003Nov18.html

Note the date. Nearly two months ago.

Posted by: Slartibartfast on January 12, 2004 10:57 AM

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From the WaPo article, Slartibartfast linked to:

“One U.S. official said yesterday that when apprehended at the airport, Arar had the names of "a large number of known al Qaeda operatives, affiliates or associates" in his wallet or pockets.”

Is there any more information on this?

Posted by: Thorley Winston on January 12, 2004 11:14 AM

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"We are the United States of America. We do not do things like this."

This is a virtually unshakable American belief. Examples of such atrocity on our part cannot shake our faith in our Goodness. If we do things that seem bad then it's only with an ultimate aim that is noble.

No matter how reprehensible Bush, Ashcroft, et al may be, what disheartens me is a citizenry that is less outraged about this than it is about taxes, gay marriage, and the like.

Posted by: aslam karachiwala on January 12, 2004 01:57 PM

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"We are the United States of America. We do not do things like this."

This is a virtually unshakable American belief. Examples of such atrocity on our part cannot shake our faith in our Goodness. If we do things that seem bad then it's only with an ultimate aim that is noble.

No matter how reprehensible Bush, Ashcroft, et al may be, what disheartens me is a citizenry that is less outraged about this than it is about taxes, gay marriage, and the like.

Posted by: aslam karachiwala on January 12, 2004 02:04 PM

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And also, on "We are the United States of America. We do not do things like this.", just look at the track record. The Trent incident shows that the USA does haul people out of their lawful and proper itineraries - even when out of US jurisdiction, in that instance. Handing people over to others was routine in the Chinese Treaty Ports (of course, other powers did that too, but it does show that the USA does that sort of thing).

The largest problem with "we don't do that" is that it precludes the eternal vigilance that was the only chance to stop that ever starting; it, too, is a contributor to that happening, the way a Hitlerish "big lie" needs two, a listener as well as a liar. The beginnings of this sort of thing happened right at the very beginning of the USA (just ask the United Empire Loyalists how well undertakings to them were kept).

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on January 12, 2004 03:51 PM

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Thorley Winston repeats a lie: "I am sure that there were a few on the fringe Right who said much the same thing about Bill Clinton post-Ruby Ridge and post-Elian Gonzales."

Bill Clinton was not president when the shootings at Ruby Ridge occurred.

Though this is a myth widely believed in extremist circles.

Posted by: Charles on January 12, 2004 04:22 PM

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