January 14, 2004

Maher Arar

Katherine R of Obsidian Wings is thinking about the Maher Arar case.

Impeach George Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Immediately remove John Ashcroft from office--along with everybody else who claims to believe Syrian government assurances that they do not use torture.

We need to keep the United States a free country.

Posted by DeLong at January 14, 2004 10:16 AM | TrackBack


Where's the Liberal media?

Posted by: Wolf on January 14, 2004 10:36 AM


you aren't free now. You began to lose your freedom, during the "Wiskey Rebellion".

Posted by: big al on January 14, 2004 10:43 AM



Posted by: big al on January 14, 2004 10:44 AM


The Canadians need to hear some too!

I mean this was ten months, as I recall from previous posting, and the Canadians should have screamed bloody murder on this and let all hell break lose -- for God's sake Arar was THEIR citizen!!-- and I didn't hear them.

I mean I did hear the Britts protecting their own, if I recall correctly, even a few in Guantanamo. And you got to hand it to the Britts, they acted like a respectable state and government in these matters. I mean they just acted like a third world country in the case of that poor weapon's specialist who committed suicide (can't recall his name this moment), and in general in Tony Blair's lies and videotape kinda belly dancing on Iraqi WMD, but they did get moving defending the rights of British citizens.

Posted by: bulent on January 14, 2004 12:13 PM


While I agree with bulent, there are reasons why "the Canadians" -- meaning the Canadian government and/or security services -- did not shout.

In short, it seems that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) knew that Maher Arar was in custody, and it is at least possible they thought sending him to Syria was a fine idea.

Stupidity and self-interest don't stop at Buffalo you know.

Posted by: Tom Slee on January 14, 2004 01:01 PM


Gee, most of the lunatic lefties who have adopted this as a cause celebre, keep forgetting to mention that Canadian intelligence services had this guy fingered all along. And they were consulted as to what to do with him.

From the cited piece:

When it was noted that Arar was a Canadian, Canadian security was contacted. "They asked, 'Do you have anything on him,"' an official closely involved in the case said, on condition that he not be quoted by name.

"'Yes indeed,' they were told. 'He is watched because he has been to Afghanistan several times.'"

On the basis of that, the official said, Arar was arrested when the plane landed in New York.....

According to information compiled by those who worked to get Arar released, Arar travelled frequently on business to the U.S., but had his computer and Palm Pilot seized by Canada Customs on Dec. 20, 2001.

In January, 2002, his wife, Monia Mazigh, was visited by two RCMP officers from the National Security Investigation Section who wanted to talk to Arar, then in Tunisia visiting his wife's family.

When he returned and got in touch with the RCMP, he agreed to an interview, accompanied by a lawyer, but the RCMP never responded

In April, 2002, Arar had his U.S. work permit renewed without incident - but in September he was arrested and sent to Syria.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on January 14, 2004 01:35 PM



What exactly is the point of your post ? Even supposing the worst was true of this guy (and apparently it wasn't), you seem to be OK with the fact that he was knowingly sent off by our government to Syria (a country I assume you think the worst of and may even wish us to invade) to be tortured. You may think that's just fine, but at least do us the favor of arguing the point being made, rather than glossing the uncomfortable bits.

Posted by: boonie on January 14, 2004 01:54 PM


Patrick Sullivan, here are some relevant facts:

1.) The USA has signed and ratified the Convention Against Torture.

2.) Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture states the following:

Article 3
1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2.) For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

3.) The US Department of State's 2002 Human Rights Report reported the following on torture in Syria:

Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Despite the existence of constitutional provisions and several Penal Code penalties for abusers, there was credible evidence that security forces continued to use torture, although to a lesser extent than in previous years. Former prisoners, detainees, and the London-based Syrian Human Rights Organization reported that torture methods included administering electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim is suspended from the ceiling; hyperextending the spine; bending the detainees into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts; and using a chair that bends backwards to asphyxiate the victim or fracture the victim's spine. In 2001 AI published a report claiming that authorities at Tadmur Prison regularly tortured prisoners, or forced prisoners to torture each other. Although it occurs in prisons, torture was most likely to occur while detainees were being held at one of the many detention centers run by the various security services throughout the country, especially while the authorities were attempting to extract a confession or information.

The Government has denied that it uses torture and claims that it would prosecute anyone believed guilty of using excessive force or physical abuse. Past victims of torture have identified the officials who tortured them, up to the level of brigadier general. If allegations of excessive force or physical abuse are to be made in court, the plaintiff is required to initiate his own civil suit against the alleged abuser. Courts did not order medical examinations for defendants who claimed that they were tortured (see Section 1.e.). There were no substantiated allegations of torture during the year.

In 2000 the Government apprehended Raed Hijazi, accused of a terrorist plot targeting American and Israeli tourists in Jordan during the millennium celebrations, and sent him to Jordan to stand trial. According to media accounts of the trial, doctors for both the defense and the prosecution testified that Hijazi's body showed signs of having been beaten, but witnesses, including Hijazi, made contradictory and inconclusive claims regarding whether the alleged abuse occurred while he was in Jordanian or Syrian custody. The Jordanian court has rejected the allegations that Hijazi's confession was coerced. In February the Jordanian authorities sentenced Hijazi to death. He has appealed the decision but remained in custody at year's end pending a decision.

Prison conditions generally were poor and did not meet international standards for health and sanitation. However, there were separate facilities for men, women, and children. Pre-trial detainees, particularly those held for political or security reasons, were usually held separately from convicted prisoners. Facilities for political or national security prisoners generally were worse than those for common criminals.

At some prisons, authorities allowed visitation, but in other prisons, security officials demanded bribes from family members who wished to visit incarcerated relatives. Overcrowding and the denial of food occurred at several prisons. According to Human Rights Watch, prisoners and detainees were held without adequate medical care, and some prisoners with significant health problems reportedly were denied medical treatment. Some former detainees have reported that the Government prohibited reading materials, even the Koran, for political prisoners.

In 2001 the London-based Syrian Human Rights Commission reported that three detainees died in prison and that their remains bore evidence of torture and extreme medical neglect.

The Government did not permit independent monitoring of prison or detention center conditions, although diplomatic or consular officials were granted access in high profile cases.

Posted by: Randy Paul on January 14, 2004 02:25 PM


Patrick's reasoning is the same as the reasoning the wingnuts used on the Plame case:

"It's okay to threaten Plame's life and that of her associates because her husband is a Democrat."

At least, I think that was their reasoning. They did spend an awful lot of time pointing out Wilson was a Dem.

Posted by: Ca on January 14, 2004 02:40 PM


Until the republicans are a minority, fringe party again they will never--NEVER--worry about abuse of power. Its always going to strike them as weird that the democrats, the left, or anyone at all complains about government abuses, about the extension of government power into people's lives, about the patriot act etc... As long as they are, as they t hink it, invulnerably in control they believe (foolishly) that the arbitrary power of the state will not affect them. O'Neill, Diullio, and any other republican who crosses the bossess will tell them differently.

Kate Gilbert

Posted by: Kate on January 14, 2004 03:02 PM


Brad DeLong writes, "Impeach George Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney."

The charge(s) against them being...? Presumably failure to follow the treaty, "Convention Against Torture"?

Does failure to follow any treaty constitute a "high crime or misdemeanor"...or is it only failure to follow this particular treaty?

(Bill Clinton directly ordered the blowing up of a privately owned pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan. One man died immediately. No one knows how many people died from lack of medicines. Did Dr. DeLong advocate that Bill Clinton or anyone else in Bill Clinton's government be impeached for that? If not, why not? Because Bill Clinton was a Democrat, perhaps?)

Or is it only this particular treaty not being followed in this particular way...***by these particular people?****

Does Dr. DeLong know that Bush and Cheney even knew that Maher Arar was deported to Syria? Or doesn't that even matter?

"Immediately remove John Ashcroft from office--along with everybody else who claims to believe Syrian government assurances that they do not use torture."

The U.S. Congress is not authorized by the Constitution to "immediately remove" John Ashcroft. (Or was Dr. DeLong advocating a brown-shirted mob do the job, to save time and expense?) The U.S. Congress would have to impeach John Ashcroft (have a trial in the Senate, where he would be removed from office only upon super-majority vote).

In summary, a couple bits of advice:

1) Your suggestions for impeachments might be taken more seriously, if you provided suggestions for specific charges. (It would also help if you had advocated for impeachment of presidents of your own political persuasion, when they engaged in acts of international terrorism. But that's water under the bridge, I guess.)

2) You would also be taken more seriously, if you didn't advocate breaking the law (i.e., "immediately remove John Ashcroft from office") to address an instance where you thought someone had broken the law.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on January 14, 2004 03:15 PM



actually the case for impeachment could run three pages long and totally ignore the Arar case at that.

Bottomline: Lying to Congress and the American people to start a war under false pretenses.

Unequivocally a "high crime or misdemeanor".


Posted by: ch2 on January 14, 2004 03:22 PM


This whole storey sounds very fishy. I would not be surpried if told that US intelligence services tortured someone they suspect of being a terrorist. I think it is incredible that they would send him to Syria which US accuses of supporting the terrorists. Very, very fishy.

Posted by: Leopold on January 14, 2004 03:36 PM


Syria supports some terrorists (Hizbollah, for exampe) and not others. Arar was in the "others" category.

Posted by: ch2 on January 14, 2004 03:51 PM


ch2 wrote: Arar was in the "others" category.

Just because a country has some of the same enemies as US, it does not make it US ally - for example Iran opposed Taliban but US is not sending prisoners there. The much more likely scenario is that US intelligence talked to him and found him useless. Than they contacted Canadians who said they did not want him - citizen or not. Than US just threw him out and Syria accepted him.

Posted by: Leopold on January 14, 2004 04:21 PM


Leopold wrote: "Just because a country has some of the same enemies as US, it does not make it US ally"

I agree.

I'm just saying that there could still be arrangements between the US and these countries to deal with a common ennemy nonetheless. I don't see why you would consider that to be inconceivable. Your alternative explanation is not impossible either, though I have a hard time conceiving the Canadian government acting this way towards a Canadian. You don't see the US doing that with their dual-citizens either.

Posted by: ch2 on January 14, 2004 04:35 PM


bulent: I agree this does not appear to shine a very favorable light on the Canadian government. The citizenship of a state/country is only worth as much as the state honors, protects, and enforces the rights of their citizens.

Having said that, and the following is not meant apologetically, any government is not a monolithic body, but consists of different interest groups and individuals. That one branch cooperated with a third party need not necessarily mean that the whole government failed in its function. Even so, 10 months is a long time, and that effective action has not been taken does not look very good regardless which way one looks.

Leopold: Regarding enemies of enemies, but this is how alliances are often formed. Regarding your extradiction story, I would wonder how Canada can reject taking in their own citizen. I can always take my cynical stand and say well of course they can, but it looks not quite proper regardless.

Posted by: cm on January 14, 2004 04:39 PM


cm, ch2: interesting WP story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A59678-2003Nov18?language=printer

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.


Imad Moustafa, the charge d'affaires at the Syrian Embassy in Washington, has denied Arar was tortured. But he said Syria had no reason to imprison Arar. He said U.S. intelligence officials told their Syrian counterparts that Arar was an al Qaeda member. Syria agreed to take him as a favor and to win goodwill of the United States, he said.

So, the guy was sent to Syria on US initiative (you were right about that). However he was not sent there by some sinister US-Syrian torture pact. He was sent there because US knew Syrians would keep him in jail so he could work no mischief.

Posted by: Leopold on January 14, 2004 04:58 PM


Leopold: Would it be acceptable to you if "US intelligence services tortured someone they suspect of being a terrorist"?

CH2: Arar certainly disputes being in the "others" category. He says he admitted to visiting Afghanistan only under torture.

Mark B.:
(1) Are you alleging that Clinton knew it was an innocent pharmaceuticals factory?

(2) Does not the President have the power to fire, or at the very least to request the resignations of, officials in his administration who condone (or even direct) such acts as (a) making misleading or even false statements to Congress, whether or not under oath, (b) identifying undercover CIA agents, or (c) deporting people to countries believed to routinely practice torture, as prohibited by U.S. law through U.S. adherence to signed and ratified treaties (to be specific; I imagine a few more specific misdemeanors might be added)?

(3) If the President does not pursue the dismissal of such officials in his Administration, does not this make him a party to the misdeeds? and

(4) Which of items (a) through (c) do you believe to be (i) legal, (ii) illegal but not rising to the level of a "high crime and misdemeanor" or (iii) impeachable?

I think (a)-(c) all are in class (iii). I would place "stupidly ordering bombings of restaurants in civilian neighborhoods," or even "misinformed bombings of pharmaceutical factories suspected of being misused for nefarious purposes," in class (i), and "lying, even under oath, about blowjobs in the Oval Office" in class (ii). What's the difference between BJs in the WH and (a)-(c)? Intent to subvert the Constitutional processes of Government. "High" crimes indeed.

(And, btw, if it turned out that the Secret Service condoned the smoking of pot by the Presidential Offspring, as is rumored to have happened during the Ford Administration, and if the President knew that it happened and did nothing, I would put that undoubted abuse of office in category (ii): disgraceful but not impeachible, because of its irrelevance to the central processes of the Government.)

Posted by: Marcus Sitz on January 14, 2004 05:09 PM


Leopold: Would it be acceptable to you if "US intelligence services tortured someone they suspect of being a terrorist"?

Marcus: of course not. I would not be surprised if they did it however.

Posted by: Leopold on January 14, 2004 05:14 PM


I think we'd know freedom if we saw it.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on January 14, 2004 05:33 PM


Marcus: I mean, for crying outloud: http://healingiraq.blogspot.com/archives/2004_01_01_healingiraq_archive.html#107355465026355767

An American army patrol stood in their way, and after they went through the whole procedure of searching my son and his cousin, and inspecting the cargo load, they tied them up both and led them to an area about three kilometres from the scene and...in front of one of the gates of the Tharthar dam where water flows at its strongest rate and to my son and his cousin's horror, they ordered them to jump into the water, it was midnight and the cold was unbearable, when they hesitated, they were pushed by the soldiers.

Posted by: Leopold on January 14, 2004 05:57 PM


The Arar case has caused quite a stir in Canada in addition to a few other cases in which Canadian citizens were treated poorly by foreign governments with little or no help from the Canadian government. To date, only the Arar case seems to have gotten any publicity south of the border. But there are even more scary stories such as the one of Rocco Gallati, the lawyer for Abdul Rahman Khadr who spent 2 years in the prison camps in Cuba. Gallati received a death threat urging him to stop defending Khadr, from an apparent U.S. intelligence agent and has since dropped all of the cases he was working on involving national security. In an ironic twist, Gallati was on the cover of a Canadian law journal that month touting his willingness to defend undesirable clients so that the rule of law was upheld. What has instilled so much fear in Gallati that he decided to drop all his cases is that a former client of his received similar threats from the same source and has since disappeared. Moreover, Gallati went to the local police and RCMP and they have refused him protection. What makes the Gallati story different from the Arar one is that Gallati's client has never denied he received military training in Afghanistan. He did so in 1998. But he has denied any involvement with Osama Bin Laden or any of his efforts. Are we to believe him? I'm not sure. Aren't those what courts are for? It's a pity he'll never be able to find a lawyer willing to defend him now that it's open game on their lives. As a Canadian, I'm sad. But there's not much we can do. If we so much as look at the U.S. the wrong way, we get punished with some trade tariff. My only hope is that the good people south of the border wake up and do something.

Posted by: Canuck on January 14, 2004 06:07 PM


Kate Gilbert:

"Until the republicans are a minority, fringe party again they will never--NEVER--worry about abuse of power. Its always going to strike them as weird that the democrats, the left, or anyone at all complains about government abuses, about the extension of government power into people's lives, about the patriot act etc... As long as they are, as they t hink it, invulnerably in control they believe (foolishly) that the arbitrary power of the state will not affect them. O'Neill, Diullio, and any other republican who crosses the bossess will tell them differently."

I don't think that they think that the Democrats are wierd, just foolish for not doing it to them first. This administration does act as if it will always be in power, doesn't it?

Posted by: Barry on January 14, 2004 06:40 PM


Hold on a minute - we expelled this guy to a country on our list of states subsudizing terror, because we thought they'd have a better prison?

"So, the guy was sent to Syria on US initiative (you were right about that). However he was not sent there by some sinister US-Syrian torture pact. He was sent there because US knew Syrians would keep him in jail so he could work no mischief." - Leopold

Y'know my tax dollars incarcarate drug dealers daily, but you're telling me the US gov couldn't find a single prison in the entire country to dumpt this guy? Did he get a trial?

freedom my ass, in the old days this would be tyranny

Posted by: T on January 14, 2004 07:13 PM



My original point is that US does not import torture from Syria, it has enough of superior-quality domestic product that it is ready to export in large quantities.
If Arar was considered worthy of US intelligence attention, his wife would probably be wondering where he is even now. He was kicked to Syria (which is why he is now safe and sound in Canada) precisely because he was considered to be annoying but useless.
Drug dealers are different - US Constitution applies to them.

Posted by: Leopold on January 14, 2004 07:33 PM



Agencies of the U.S. Gov't no doubt get away with far more outside the U.S. territory than within. That seems to be the point of Guantanamo Bay.

Do you think the U.S. Gov't picks up & tortures people within the boundaries of the US? I don't; I don't think they could keep it quiet.

The existence of Camp Gitmo, or whatever it is, should be cause for alarm: the intent seems to have been to set up a facility under no jurisdiction whatsoever where one could do whatever. I'll even assign a new category to it:
{iv) Extralegal, and impeachible.


Posted by: Marcus Sitz on January 14, 2004 11:22 PM


MS: Do you think the U.S. Gov't picks up & tortures people within the boundaries of the US?

You do not need to physically torture and maim people to extract the information from them. Fear and sleep deprivation is considered almost a friendly chat and if you do not have time for that, well, better living through chemistry. However in the country where
* NY police have no problem with sticking broomstick up someone's poop chute
* US Army gives an honourable - honorouble! - discharge to the solders squeezing and twisting the POW's wounded hand
* one of the trophy prisoners just becomes very sick and dies during the interrogation (flu?)
- yes, I think if you are unfortunate enough to be identified by US intelligence as someone they want and if your interrogator decides you need to be taught a lesson, well, you are in for a hundred kinds of incident.

Posted by: Leopold on January 14, 2004 11:57 PM



I agree completely about the intentions/perceptions of top republicans. I was referring to the generic republican "man on the street" who can't imagine "his" government screwing him over (except when he reads and listens to rush limbaugh and its a democratic administration).


Posted by: Kate on January 15, 2004 08:23 AM



The NY cops got prosecuted. There are certainly other rogue cops out there who *should* be prosecuted. I guess I am more interested in the existence of officially directed or condoned torture.

I don't recognize the incidents to which you allude regarding POWs. I will stipulate their existence and outrageousness, and add that...

A people who finds its rights and privileges under attack by a rogue government (that would be us) should and will react first and most vigorously to abuses committed against them, in their own territory. Extraterritorial crimes, even "in our name," receive a lower priority.

Shipping a Canadian citizen off our territory to Syria for torture comes pretty close to home...but for most Americans is, I think, not quite there. For Canadian citizens it should be a cause for serious concern, and complicity of their own government a source of anger and outrage.



Posted by: Marcus Sitz on January 15, 2004 09:19 AM


MS: I guess I am more interested in the existence of officially directed or condoned torture.

What, like official instructions on burning and squeezing? Neither Gestapo nor NKVD left any official torture manuals.

Posted by: Leopold on January 15, 2004 10:27 AM


It is a complicated story.
Please see:

Posted by: Scott McArthur on January 16, 2004 07:06 AM


Sending people to Syria to be tortured is not "complicated."

Posted by: Brad DeLong on January 16, 2004 10:30 PM


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