Today the Canadian government will formally apologize to Maher Arar, the software engineer whom it mistakenly fingered as a terrorist, leading U.S. authorities to detain him during a layover in New York and deport him to the country of his birth, Syria, where he was tortured into signing a confession and imprisoned for a year. The Canadian government also plans to pay Arar $8.5 million ($10 million Canadian) in compensation.
The U.S. government, meanwhile, won't even remove Arar from its terrorist watch list, despite his exoneration by a Canadian commission of inquiry and a direct appeal by Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day. In a January 16 letter to Day, The New York Times reports, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff
said their departments and American intelligence agencies "have re-examined the materials in the possession of the United States regarding Mr. Arar.
"Based on this re-examination," [they] added, "we remain of the view that the continued watch listing of Mr. Arar is appropriate."
After the letter was sent, Mr. Day met last week with Mr. Chertoff and Mr. Gonzales and reviewed the American dossier on Mr. Arar in its entirety, but still disagreed with the American decision, Canadian and American officials said.
To recap: The Canadians, the original source of the tip that made U.S. officials think Arar was a terrorist, have completely repudiated the allegation, but the Americans are sticking to it, based on secret information the Canadians find unpersuasive. I'd like to believe our government is being extra careful, preferring to err on the side of safety. But I suspect it is actually being extra careless, refusing to admit the possibility of error.