Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case


Richard Moore

The issue here is not really about how terrorism suspects are 
treated. The real issue is that they are not terrorist suspects at 
all. Most of them, as in this article, seem to be victims picked at 
random, from among Muslim communities, and imprisoned so that people 
will believe there are 'real terrorists' to be afraid of. The rest of 
them are probably Al Qaeda people who are kept locked up so they 
won't talk about how the CIA was controlling their activities.


Original source URL:

September 19, 2006

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case

OTTAWA, Sept. 18 - A government commission on Monday exonerated a 
Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a 
scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his 
deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and 

The report on the engineer, Maher Arar, said American officials had 
apparently acted on inaccurate information from Canadian 
investigators and then misled Canadian authorities about their plans 
for Mr. Arar before transporting him to Syria.

"I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate 
that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities 
constituted a threat to the security of Canada," Justice Dennis R. 
O'Connor, head of the commission, said at a news conference.

The report's findings could reverberate heavily through the 
leadership of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which handled the 
initial intelligence on Mr. Arar that led security officials in both 
Canada and the United States to assume he was a suspected Al Qaeda 

The report's criticisms and recommendations are aimed primarily at 
Canada's own government and activities, rather than the United States 
government, which refused to cooperate in the inquiry.

But its conclusions about a case that had emerged as one of the most 
infamous examples of rendition - the transfer of terrorism suspects 
to other nations for interrogation - draw new attention to the Bush 
administration's handling of detainees. And it comes as the White 
House and Congress are contesting legislation that would set 
standards for the treatment and interrogation of prisoners.

"The American authorities who handled Mr. Arar's case treated Mr. 
Arar in a most regrettable fashion," Justice O'Connor wrote in a 
three-volume report, not all of which was made public. "They removed 
him to Syria against his wishes and in the face of his statements 
that he would be tortured if sent there. Moreover, they dealt with 
Canadian officials involved with Mr. Arar's case in a less than 
forthcoming manner."

A spokesman for the United States Justice Department, Charles Miller, 
and a White House spokesman traveling with President Bush in New York 
said officials had not seen the report and could not comment.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada planned to act on the 
report but offered no details. "Probably in the few weeks to come 
we'll be able to give you more details on that,'' he told reporters.

The Syrian-born Mr. Arar was seized on Sept. 26, 2002, after he 
landed at Kennedy Airport in New York on his way home from a holiday 
in Tunisia. On Oct. 8, he was flown to Jordan in an American 
government plane and taken overland to Syria, where he says he was 
held for 10 months in a tiny cell and beaten repeatedly with a metal 
cable. He was freed in October 2003, after Syrian officials concluded 
that he had no connection to terrorism and returned him to Canada.

Mr. Arar's case attracted considerable attention in Canada, where 
critics viewed it as an example of the excesses of the campaign 
against terror that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The practice of 
rendition has caused an outcry from human rights organizations as 
"outsourcing torture," because suspects often have been taken to 
countries where brutal treatment of prisoners is routine.

The commission supports that view, describing a Mounted Police force 
that was ill-prepared to assume the intelligence duties assigned to 
it after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Arar, speaking at a news conference, praised the findings. "Today 
Justice O'Connor has cleared my name and restored my reputation," he 
said. "I call on the government of Canada to accept the findings of 
this report and hold these people responsible."

His lawyer, Marlys Edwardh, said the report affirmed that Mr. Arar, 
who has been unemployed since his return to Canada, was deported and 
tortured because of "a breathtakingly incompetent investigation."

The commission found that Mr. Arar first came to police attention on 
Oct. 12, 2001, when he met with Abdullah Almalki, a man already under 
surveillance by a newly established Mounted Police intelligence unit 
known as Project A-O Canada. Mr. Arar has said in interviews that the 
meeting at Mango's Cafe in Ottawa, and a subsequent 20-minute 
conversation outside the restaurant, was mostly about finding 
inexpensive ink jet printer cartridges.

The meeting set off a chain of actions by the police. Investigators 
obtained a copy of Mr. Arar's rental lease. After finding Mr. Almalki 
listed as an emergency contact, they stepped up their investigation 
of Mr. Arar. At the end of that month, the police asked customs 
officials to include Mr. Arar and his wife on a "terrorist lookout" 
list, which would subject them to more intensive question when 
re-entering Canada.

However, the commission found that the designation should have only 
been applied to people who are members or associates of terrorist 
networks. Neither the police nor customs had any such evidence of 
that concerning Mr. Arar or his wife, an economist.

 From there, the Mounted Police asked that the couple be included in a 
database that alerts United States border officers to suspect 
individuals. The police described Mr. Arar and his wife as, the 
report said, "Islamic extremists suspected of being linked to the al 
Qaeda movement."

The commission said that all who testified before it accepted that 
the description was false.

According to the inquiry's finding, the Mounted Police gave the 
F.B.I. and other American authorities material from Project A-O 
Canada, which included suggestions that Mr. Arar had visited 
Washington around Sept. 11 and had refused to cooperate with the 
Canadian police. The handover of the data violated the force's own 
guidelines, but was justified on the basis that such rules no longer 
applied after 2001.

In July 2002, the Mounted Police learned that Mr. Arar and his family 
were in Tunisia, and incorrectly concluded that they had left Canada 

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 

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.

Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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