Outsourcing Torture?

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From yesterday's Washington Post:

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. [?]

While in custody in New York, Arar said, he repeatedly pleaded with U.S. officials not to send him to Syria, a country with a record of torturing prisoners that has been well documented by the State Department, because he believed he would face such treatment.

Arar, who was released last month after an aggressive campaign by Canadian officials to free him, is back in Canada. He has described in graphic detail how he was tortured with cables and electrical cords and kept in a small cell he described as a "grave" during his 10 months in prison.

Link from the Body and Soul weblog.

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  1. Outside of terror/torture considerations, what gives the US the power to send somebody “back where he came from”? I would think all we could say is, “You’re not welcome here, get out!” Where he goes is his choice, and if he can’t book passage, we drop him in the ocean. Or, less cruelly, buy him the cheapest ticket to anywhere not the US.

    On this specifically, it seems that sending him to Syria was much like dropping him in the ocean. But there was a convenient alternative, Canada. It might be prejudicial to state interests to have terrorists transit through our airports, but that might be the cost of respecting different citizenships in a global community. And we get to copy their notes as they pass through.

  2. Actually Maher Arar, like Bill Sampson, the Canadian man who was held and tortured in Saudia Arabia for something like two years, has been airing a lot of complaints about the Canadian government’s handling of his case, and has even gone so far as to suggest that he was deported back to Syria with the active connivance of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Plenty of blame to go around.

  3. from the WP article:

    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.

    Of course they’re not going to imprison him. Syria probably said welcome home, gave him a gun, and put him on the next bus to Baghdad.

  4. That happened to my ferret.

  5. Would it really be smart to send a suspected terrorist to Syria? Might as well start charter flights to Taliban strongholds along the Pakistania border while we’re at it.

    “Hey, terrorists! Tired of the feds chasing you? Need to get back to headquarters for debriefing? Looking to replenish your arsenal? Come to the State Department for all-expenses paid flights to a terrorist training camp of your choice!”

  6. thoreau: Send them to terrorist camps and track them. After they gather a little mass, and we get a little more intelligence, drop something nasty on them.

  7. except Syria didn’t welcome him home and arm him. they kept him a box and ran current through his body.

    Republicans. Jihadis. Baathists. Somebody please explain to me who’s at war and who’s allied with whom.

  8. The US is rid of someone who if guilty is dangerous and if innocent is embarassing. Syria can torture him so as to score points with the US government for cracking down on terrorism without having to actually, you know, crack down on any, well, terrorists. It’s a win-win situation, regardless of his guilt or innocence. So it’s hardly surprising that no serious attempt was made to determine his guilt or innocence.

    The only error is that he lived through it. You can be certain that that error won’t be repeated with anyone else in such a situation.
    –G

  9. He is a Canadian citizen, he should have been sent to Canada.

  10. Syria has no particular love for Al Qaeda. They co-operated with the US on cracking down on Al Qaeda. Its speculated that the reason Syria was not designated part of the Axis of Evil was its original help to the US after SEp 11.

    Syria has also cracked down pretty heavily on Islamic fundamentalists in Syria before. They threatened Assad Senior’s autocratic rule. But of course, they have supported Hezbollah, an Islamic fundamentalist group, in Lebanon.

    Enemy of my Enemy is my friend ? Maybe not.

  11. He is a dual citizen of Canada and Syria. By law, he can be repatriated to either country if denied entry to the U.S.

    If the RCMP expressed a desire to keep him out of Canada, and the Syrian consulate promised not to torture him…

  12. According to the Post, he was en route to Canada. We interrupted his journey at JFK. By my sense of the world, a person is not exactly in the US until cleared by Customs. Does the law have another category for persons on US soil, but not seeking free access beyond the terminal’s checkpoints?

    We didn’t want him, and he didn’t intend to stay here, so we could have left it to the Mounties to drop him in the ocean.

  13. except Syria didn’t welcome him home and arm him. they kept him a box and ran current through his body.

    Yes, I was being facetious. I’ll withhold my sympathy however until I learn more about the al Qaeda rolodex in his pockets. If he’s a terrorist, then I would wholeheartedly support sending him back to that little battery box.

    Republicans. Jihadis. Baathists. Somebody please explain to me who’s at war and who’s allied with whom.

    It all boils down to the same tired shit. God gave us Jerusalem! No, God gave us Jerusalem! No, God gave us Jerusalem. etc., etc. I hope it burns and nobody gets it.

  14. what gives the US the power to send somebody “back where he came from”?

    He set foot on American soil, that’s what. He was a Syrian citizen; we sent him to Syria. He claims they tortured him. So? Let him complain to Canada and Syria about it; not our problem.

    By my sense of the world, a person is not exactly in the US until cleared by Customs

    A person is in the US once they set foot in the United States. If a man from France shoots a man from Germany in the customs line at JFK International Airport, he gets prosecuted in the United States, not in France or Germany.

  15. Syria has no particular love for Al Qaeda. They co-operated with the US on cracking down on Al Qaeda. Its speculated that the reason Syria was not designated part of the Axis of Evil was its original help to the US after SEp 11.

    I was mostly facetious in my post. But it is an article of faith among some here (myself notably excepted) that all of the “Islamo-fascists” are the same. Whether they’re Islamic fundamentalists, secular dictators, corrupt monarchs with cozy US ties but also fundamentalist ties, etc., they all bat for the same team and hence are all part of the same threat. Therefore any intervention in the Middle East is amply justified.

    I don’t subscribe to that notion, but many here do.

  16. Dan: I enjoy the nuances of law, and I still wonder if there is some recognition of the transitory nature of being within a terminal. Do goods in transshipment have to meet all US regulations while on our soil, or is regulation applied when the container is opened? Say there was a box of highly flammable baby clothes that changed ships in New Orleans on the way from Belize to Belarus. Does the US have the authority to seize the clothes because they don’t meet our domestic standards?

  17. Even if there is only enough justice in the universe, that it can just be picked up as background radiation, Larry D. Thompson will be brought up on charges of violating Maher Arar’s civil rights. A person with such a dearth of decency and good judgment has no place in a position of power, that’s for sure. Also, how many tax dollars do the Syrian state monsters receive from our government? Add this sickening episode of injustice to the many, in the “horror files”, brought to us by government.

  18. Why, oh why, would the U.S. government deport this poor bastard to a nation that is known to torture people it considers a threat/criminals/they don’t like your haircut? He should have been sent to Canada. Having said that, it was not as if any of the mandarins in Ottawa got off their fat asses to help this guy, at least not until a big enough stink was raised by others. I hope Arar and Sampson both sue the government for every dime they can squeeze out of them. And I pay taxes up here. Shame

  19. If you are a terrorist, people are not going to want you in their country.

    Why is this complex?

    Children need to be taught that if they aren’t nice, other children won’t play with them.

    I guess some adults need to be taught this too.

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