Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

The Jehoshua Novels


Senator Patrick Leahy, tears a strip off U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales

U.S. legislators to see file on Arar
January 18, 2007
Tim Harper
WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON”“U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, facing accusations he has abused core American values and invited condemnation from his country’s closest ally, says he will open his government’s file on Maher Arar next week.

Gonzales yesterday told Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chair of the Senate judiciary committee, he would share with legislators the Bush administration’s rationale for barring the British Columbia man from entering the United States, even after he was cleared of any terror links by a commission of inquiry in Canada.
He said he would also seek to open the file to the general public.

Gonzales sat silently for much of his confrontation with Leahy, a sign of the changed atmosphere in Washington where Democrats now rule Congress and have vowed tough oversight of what they consider the erosion of American liberties under the Bush administration’s so-called war on terror.

It was extraordinary, however, to see a bilateral Canada-U.S. issue explode in a Senate committee, and Leahy’s assault on the attorney-general was the clearest challenge yet to the Bush policy of rendition, essentially the contracting out of torture to third countries.

Leahy said the policy was “a black mark” on his country.

“Canadians have been our closest allies, (we have) the longest unguarded frontier in the world,” Leahy said.

“They’re justifiably upset. They’re wondering what’s happened to us.”

Leahy also sparked laughter by mocking Gonzales’ statement that former Attorney-General John Ashcroft had received assurances from Syria that Arar would not be tortured.

“It is easy for us to sit here comfortably in this room knowing that we’re not going to be sent off to another country to be tortured, to treat it as though, well, Attorney-General Ashcroft says we’ve got assurances,” Leahy said.

“Assurances from a country that we also say, now, we can’t talk to them because we can’t take their word for anything?”

Leahy and Gonzales sparred the same morning Public Security Minister Stockwell Day raised the Arar matter with Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff.

Day told reporters his officials had seen “recent information” from the Bush administration on Arar and Ottawa still believes he should be on no watch or terror list in the U.S.

“Our officials recently have looked at all the U.S. information, and that does not change our position,” Day said. “We are still maintaining that he should not be on that (no) fly list.”

Day said he was pleased to hear Gonzales promise to release more information.

Chertoff sought to turn the Arar case into a “hypothetical” issue, even after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay before Christmas that she would have the homeland security chief review the case.

He said the issue only becomes relevant if someone presents themselves for entry to the U.S.

“Otherwise, it’s kind of a hypothetical issue,” Chertoff said.
Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was returning to Ottawa from a vacation in 2002 when he was detained by American officials at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport ”“ based on erroneous information provided by the RCMP, according to Justice Dennis O’Connor’s report ”“ then “rendered” to Syria, where he was held for 10 months and tortured.

American authorities did not tell Canadian officials that they had sent Arar to Syria.

The U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, confirmed late last year that, despite the findings of the Canadian probe, Arar remains on a U.S. watch list.

Leahy asked Gonzales why that was and the attorney-general said he had “some very definite views” on the case, beyond the fact that it is still in litigation.

Arar is appealing a New York court’s decision to deny him compensation for his treatment at the hands of the Americans.

But Gonzales would not expand on that, only telling Leahy that he couldn’t answer the questions at the hearing, but would by next week.

“We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn’t be tortured,” Leahy said.

“He’d be held. He’d be investigated.

“We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he’d be tortured.
“And it’s beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.”

Gonzales told Leahy he understood his government’s legal obligations when someone is extradited or rendered to another country and understood its obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.

It marked the first time Gonzales had used the word “rendered” in relation to Arar.

Until yesterday, he had always characterized the case as a deportation.

Lorne Waldman, Arar’s Toronto lawyer, said he was heartened by Day’s comments, indicating that Ottawa had seen the file and could see no terror links.

“It looks like we’re making some progress here,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see the file, but it should tell us there was never any basis to keep him on the no-fly list.”

Gonzales appeared one day after the Bush administration announced it was ending a controversial domestic wiretapping program which bypassed court supervision, reversing itself and subjecting wiretaps to that courts.

The program had faced prolonged opposition, but Bush asserted his right to circumvent the court until the Democrats took control of Congress.

“It is a little hard to see why it took so long,” said Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who headed the panel until his party lost power in November.

“There hasn’t been a sufficient sense of urgency,” to change the policy, he said.

Source Toronto Star

—–

Wow: Senator Layhe gave him what for! Perhaps there is hope, America can restore what she was before 9/11. Arar deserves some good news.

12 comments to Senator Patrick Leahy, tears a strip off U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales

  • Escher Sketch

    Chertoff sought to turn the Arar case into a “hypothetical” issue…He said the issue only becomes relevant if someone presents themselves for entry to the U.S. “Otherwise, it’s kind of a hypothetical issue,” Chertoff said.

    Yessss… I can’t imagine why Arar hasn’t done that – his last experience was so pleasant.

    Cherkoff.

  • Chickadee

    U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, facing accusations he has abused core American values and invited condemnation from his country’s closest ally, says he will open his government’s file on Maher Arar next week.

    Millions of Canadians wait with bated breath for Alberto “Guantanamo” Gonzales to open the file – but anybody watching his shifty eyed discomfort when unhappily giving Leahy this assurance, could easily assume he’s just playing for time. Anybody willing to lay odds on whether the actual documentation will, in fact, materialize next week?

    The floggings will continue until morale improves. – Anon.

  • Anonymous

    want to be removed from the no fly list? He’s much safer being on it! L0L

    Chertoff is a gas bag. More dangerous is Gonzales–he’s a lawyer who twists the laws beyond recognition and does advocate torture. He will be very disappointed when Guantanamo closes.

  • candy

    US, Canada Clash over Former Detainee
    By Paul Kiel – January 22, 2007, 6:03 PM

    The plight of former terror detainee Maher Arar led Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) to erupt at Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at a hearing last week, calling it a “black mark on us.”

    But despite the fact that a Canadian investigation cleared Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian whom U.S. officials deported to Syria, four months ago, the administration says he should stay on a U.S. terrorism watch list. And they say they have the information to prove it. Trouble is, the Canadians, even after a senior official was briefed again last week, aren’t convinced.

    In a letter written last Tuesday (and released today), Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff assured the Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day that the U.S. had “reexamined” Arar’s case, and he really does belong on that watch list. To prove it, they offered to brief Canadian officials on their findings.

    more with letter
    http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002388.php

  • canuck

    January 25, 2007
    Thomas Walkom

    American Ambassador David Wilkins is right when he says that it’s up to Washington – not Ottawa – to decide whether Canadian Maher Arar can enter the United States. He’s right but misses the point.

    The U.S. is a sovereign nation and can do whatever it wants. As Wilkins said yesterday, it is “presumptuous” for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to tell Americans whom they should let in.

    If Americans want to refuse entry to Arar, a Muslim they sent to be tortured in Syria, they have that right. If they want to keep out Lutherans, or blonds, or vegetarians or simply every tenth Canadian attempting to cross the international border, they can do that, too.

    Their country, their rules.

    But what Wilkins and Day don’t seem to understand is that the dispute over Washington’s decision to treat Arar as a terror suspect is not just about this particular Canadian computer engineer. It casts into question the entire rationale for sharing intelligence information between Canada and the United States.

    If Canada can’t trust American judgment in this case, how can it co-operate in others? If U.S. intelligence is as unreliable as Day suggests, why is he moving ahead full-bore to further integrate Canadian and American security systems in areas such as no-fly lists?

    Day says he’s seen the still-classified U.S. file on Arar, but that the information in it is unconvincing – that it does not alter the Canadian government’s view, based on an exhaustive public inquiry, that Arar is absolutely innocent of anything even remotely resembling terrorism.

    Yet the federal government seemingly does accept as gospel U.S. intelligence in other areas.

    For instance, Ottawa is trying to deport Algerian Mohamed Harkat as a security threat, in large part because of information the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency claims it received from an Al Qaeda suspect it’s been interrogating in one of its secret prisons.

    Even putting aside the probability that this information was obtained under duress (which, as Harkat’s lawyer Paul Copeland says, does cast doubt on its reliability) what if – as in the case of Arar – it’s just plain wrong-headed? Indeed, it is sobering to remember that if Arar had not been fully investigated – and vindicated – by a judicial inquiry, the Canadian government almost certainly would have accepted unquestioningly the U.S. claim that he remains a dangerous terror suspect.

    That’s because we’ve been taking our cues on these matters from the Americans.

    After the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, Ottawa moved quickly to integrate its security and intelligence apparatus more closely with that of the U.S.

    In practical terms, as Justice Dennis O’Connor’s inquiry into Arar discovered, that meant funnelling more information to the Americans and allowing U.S. agents to sit in on all Canadian security meetings.

    Indeed, O’Connor concluded that it was probably the RCMP’s promiscuous sharing of rumour, innuendo and misinformation that persuaded the Americans to arrest Arar in 2002 in New York, and ship him to Syria for torture

    Under the new regime of co-operation, Canada also allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other U.S. agencies to send more operatives into Canada.

    One example came to light inadvertently last June after native protestors at Caledonia near Hamilton hijacked what they took to be a suspicious vehicle that had been cruising near their blockade. As it turned out, it was a U.S. Border Patrol car containing Canadian and American agents, including one from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

    As well, Canada’s soon-to-be-unveiled no-fly list is almost certainly linked to its U.S. counterpart, according to experts in the field. (Ottawa won’t say one way or the other).

    In short, we take our cue from the Americans when it comes to security. We assume that they know what they are talking about.

    Washington’s intransigence on the Arar case blasts a hole in that theory. It is making serious allegations about Arar, perhaps to derail a lawsuit he has filed against the U.S. administration, perhaps for other reasons. Canada’s government has seen the American evidence and discounted it. In effect, Day and Harper are saying that America’s judgment in this matter is not only unfair but also seriously flawed.

    Yet if we can’t trust the U.S. government to behave rationally here, how can we trust it in other matters involving national security?

    As Wilkins says, we don’t have the right to tell American leaders what to do in their own country. But if they are temporarily deranged, surely we are under no obligation to co-operate.

    Source: Toronto Star

    ——

    I.e. Royal Bank fiasco … originally would not let people that are on the US ‘evil’ list open an account. That has now been rectified?

    London, Ontario, GM laid off workers with dual nationality that were on US ‘evil’ list.

    Software lumber…US got billions of dollars they were not entitled to because of the strong US lobby group.

    US barks, Conservative government cringes and folds like a deck of cards. That has not always been the case.

    Don’t you find it odd that Rice was very recently in the news stating that NATO should be in Pakistan and today MacKay echoed her?

    E.g.:
    MacKay talks tough on Pakistan

    US to push allies to match big funding increase for Afghanistan including a bigger role for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

    MacKay said today … NATO MacKay is a trained parrot, takes his orders from Prime Minister Harper who gets his from the United States. L0L!

    —–

    I cannot recall Harper since he was elected having an opinion that was not in keeping with the policies of the United States. Make no mistake…it is Harper, the control freak, that calls the shots in Canada.

  • Escher Sketch

    American Ambassador David Wilkins is right when he says that it’s up to Washington – not Ottawa – to decide whether Canadian Maher Arar can enter the United States.

    Arar, of course, wasn’t trying to enter the United States when he was kidnapped and sent to be tortured. He was in the airport on a stopover in NY, flying between Tunis and Montreal. If I were him I sure as hell wouldn’t trust any flight anywhere that might route through the hands of the US.

  • Chickadee

    In my opinion Ambassador Wilkins has long overstayed his welcome in Canada. I believe it is up to a host country to tolerate the presence of foreign diplomatic staff – or not. Why does the US administration continually choose such arrogant fools to serve as Ambassadors in Canada?

    US Ambassador “It’s our country and we’ll torture if we want to” David Wilkins caught gleefuly punching news photographer.

    (Other possible taglines, anyone?)
    The floggings will continue until morale improves. – Anon.

  • Chickadee

    to learn that Maher Arar will receive over 10 million in compensation, plus 2 million for his legal costs and a full apology from the Canadian government. All the letters. All the rallies. All the prayers have finally had their effect. At this moment it feels very, very good to be a Canadian. The only thing that could possibly be better is if the whole sorry event had never happened in the first place.

    The floggings will continue until morale improves. – Anon.

  • candy

    Victim of US torture flights wins £4.5m in damages

    Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
    Saturday January 27, 2007
    The Guardian

    A Canadian citizen who spent more than 10 months under torture in a Syrian prison after being swept up in the CIA’s secret “extraordinary rendition” programme received a written apology from his government yesterday and C$10.5m (£4.54m) in compensation.

    The case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born wireless technology expert whose life and career were devastated by what his lawyers call a smear campaign by the Canadian police, is the best-known example to date of the US practice of rendition – in which suspects are flown to other countries for interrogation under less humane conditions – during the “war on terror”.

    Article continues
    “The government of Canada and the prime minister have acknowledged my innocence,” Mr Arar, 37, told reporters in Ottawa yesterday. “This means the world to me.”

    He was arrested during an airport stopover in New York on his way home from a family holiday in Tunisia in September 2002. After being shackled and interrogated by the US authorities for 11 days, he was flown to Syria. His lawyer said he was confined to a cell about a metre wide, never knowing when he would be dragged out and tortured. Mr Arar remained in that jail for more than 10 months before the authorities said they had no reason to continue to hold him.

    It took until last September for the Canadian authorities to exonerate him.

    A judicial inquiry found he had no links to extremists or terrorist groups. It criticised the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for wrongly labelling him an extremist and a security threat, and said Canadian law enforcement officials had fed misleading and unfair information to the US authorities. That information was likely to have resulted in the decision to render him to Syria, the inquiry found. Yesterday, he received a formal apology from the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, in parliament. “On behalf of the government, I wish to apologise to you … and your family for any role Canadian officials may have played in the terrible ordeal that all of you experienced,” Mr Harper said.

    The award marks the largest settlement of an individual human rights case by the Canadian government.

    In the three years since his release, Mr Arar was unable to find work. “My suffering and the suffering of my family did not end when I was released. The struggle to clear my name has been long and hard,” he said. “I feel now I can put more time into being a good father, and to being a good husband and to rebuilding my life.”

    However, the US has refused to remove him from its terrorist watch list, despite repeated entreaties from the Canadian government. Mr Harper said Ottawa would continue to press Washington to remove Mr Arar from the list. “We think the evidence is clear that Mr Arar has been treated unjustly.” He added that Washington had yet to provide its reasons for considering Mr Arar security threat.

    That standoff may end in the US Congress, now under the control of the Democratic party, which has pressed the Bush administration to explain why it deported a Canadian citizen to Syria. The US attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, has said that such information may be revealed privately to members of the Senate judiciary committee. But Mr Arar is taking no chances. “I still avoid US air space,” he told reporters yesterday.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2000021,00.html

  • Chickadee

    among the problems related to this absurd US travel ban is that it also affects his travel to approximately one third of the nations of the world (all willing kowtowers to US hysteria). Not only that, but as we know, airlines passing into US airspace, however briefly, must file their passenger list with the US. Practically speaking, this means that if you and Mrs Sketch should be planning a brief reprieve in say, Puerto Vallerta, and Arar or his wife (she’s on the list, too) should be on the plane, you’re going to be turned back. I don’t know what US authorities will do if, as often happens in bad weather, an aircraft travelling across Canada with a US watchlist baddie aboard, chooses a more southerly route to its destination. Shoot it down?

    Today Ambassador Bilko is drooling some vague nonsence about reasons that Arar should remain on the US Torture For Hire tag list. They say this Canadian has had “suspicious associates” and has a previous travel history of which US authorities don’t approve.

    I haven’t yet heard how many of the rest of the world’s citizens have a similar capacity to raise the hysterical wrath of the world’s last superpower.

    Of course, everybody around the world recognizes this US administration’s absolute insistance on its legal right to brutally torture and abuse anyone it wants, including innocents, including foreign nationals, including its own citizens.

    This, imo, is the only true tragedy with global effect that has happened since 2000, already forever tarnishing the bright hopefulness of the new century.

    The floggings will continue until morale improves. – Anon.

  • canuck

    Canadians still in need of better government protection, writes Thomas Walkom
    January 27, 2007

    Ottawa’s decision to compensate Canadian Maher Arar for its role in his unlawful imprisonment and torture contains a warning and a lesson.

    The warning is that Canada and the U.S. are on fundamentally different paths when it comes to matters of terrorism and human rights. The lesson is that until Ottawa gets more aggressive with our friends in the war on terror, a Canadian passport won’t mean much.

    First the warning. The U.S. has chosen to subordinate the principles of individual freedom to what it sees as its security needs. It jails people indefinitely without charge, utilizes interrogation methods that the United Nations describes as torture, wages illegal wars and commits the very crimes against humanity it once helped to prosecute.

    For America’s friends, this is heartbreaking to watch.

    At first, the Canadian government tried to skate by this new troubling reality. It refused to give unqualified support to the U.S. war on Iraq, but participated eagerly in its invasion of Afghanistan.

    It passed draconian anti-terror laws but was loath to use them, preferring to hand over Canadian suspects (St. Catharines resident Mohamed Mansour Jabarah being the most notable example) to U.S. authorities to do with as they saw fit.

    It didn’t raise a peep when the U.S. imprisoned Canadian teenager Omar Khadr in its notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

    Finally, as Justice Dennis O’Connor’s judicial inquiry concluded, while Canadian authorities didn’t have any reason to arrest computer engineer Arar, they happily gave the U.S. information (much of it wrong) that helped convince the Americans to do just that.

    The U.S. then promptly sent him to Syria to be tortured.

    If it had not been for the chain of events that this unleashed, Canada might still be happily muddling along its inconsistent path.

    But the Arar case made the contradictions of post-9/11 Canada-U.S. relations so clear that even Americanophile Stephen Harper has to acknowledge them.

    “It has raised concerns,” the Prime Minister said yesterday when asked at a news conference if, in light of the Arar matter, his government will be able to trust Washington.

    That puts it mildly. Thanks to Arar, the two governments are fundamentally at loggerheads over how to handle security issues.

    The U.S. administration insists it was right to send Arar to Syria to be tortured.

    Ottawa, on the other hand, has concluded that what Canada and the U.S. did to Arar was unjustified – to such an extent that it’s willing to compensate him at a cost of more than $10.5 million.

    But if we are so far apart on this case, what does this say about Canada-U.S. co-operation in other areas of the so-called war on terror?

    What does that say, for instance, about our role in the U.S.-inspired counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan?

    What does that say about our shameful silence on the matter of Khadr, who faces a Guantanamo tribunal so flawed that even American military lawyers have condemned it?

    That’s the warning.

    The lesson is that in the post- 9/11 world Canada must better protect its own citizens – not from our enemies but from our friends.

    O’Connor detailed the failings on the part of the Canadian government when it came to Arar, and in particular Ottawa’s reluctance to make a concerted effort on behalf of someone tarred with the terror brush.

    Yet, it seems this lesson has not yet been learned.

    Canada is doing its usual tiptoeing over the fate of Chinese-born Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil, who was imprisoned while visiting in-laws in Uzbekistan last spring, deported to China and jailed.

    China’s excuse is that Celil is a terrorist.

    When Harper, to his credit, attempted to take a more aggressive line with Beijing, he was roundly pilloried by Canadian business interests for threatening their opportunities in China. So, he quieted down.

    More recently, Ottawa has maintained the same kind of no-muss, no-fuss approach in the case of Bashir Makhtal, a Canadian citizen living and working in Somalia.

    When the latest civil unrest erupted there last month, Makhtal took the Canadian government’s advice and fled Somalia, only to be arrested by Kenyan authorities when he tried to enter that country.

    He was jailed and deported – not to Canada, where he is a citizen, but to Somalia where he is not (Makhtal was born in Ethiopia). Indeed, his family fears that Makhtal, whose grandfather was once a secessionist rebel in Ethiopia, has been passed on to that country – where he is unlikely to receive tender treatment.

    Our friends the Kenyans apparently think Makhtal was somehow connected to the deposed Islamic government in Somalia, which according to the U.S. government makes him terror-linked.

    This, if true, would be interesting but beside the point. If Makhtal is a terrorist, he can be tried here – just as Arar could have been tried here had there been any reason to do so. (There was not.)

    The point is that, like Arar, Bashir Makhtal, Huseyin Celil and Omar Khadr are Canadian citizens.

    If that label means anything, it means Ottawa should do for them what it did not do for Maher Arar.

    It should move heaven and earth to bring them home.

    Source

    Related:

    White House stands by decision

    `Canadian action has no bearing on our decision,’ official says of terror watch list
    January 27, 2007
    Tim Harper

    WASHINGTON–In Canada, an apology and compensation.

    In Washington, evasion and more questions.

    More Toronto Star

    Previous story: U.S. defends blacklisting Arar

    Related Editorial: Arar’s corrosive effect

    —–

    This is not all the fault of the United States…it is encumbent on the Canadian government to stand by Canadian principles and stop agreeing and sharing information with sources that are not to be trusted that do not share the same values.

    The United States went nuts before … remember the McCarthy era? Thousands of people were blacklisted and witch hunts were tolerated. The country may return to sanity some time in the future, but right now, Canada needs to separate itself from them. We need to diversify our markets and have free trade with Europe. When they recover from this latest period of disease, we can be friends and partners again, but for now they should be put on our own list of nations not to be trusted with confidential information and do the least amount of business as is possible given that our two economies are deeply entwined.

    Presently the Statue of Liberty is holding a very dim light, but expect the flame will grow and become bright again in the future. Until it does, Canada needs a new strategy for our southern neighbour –it does not have to be an unscalable fence with unmanned cameras between our two nations. Relations can be restored, but there has to be two nations who prefer that type of relationship…it cannot just be us. It has to be based on reciprocity. When it is not, that too has to be recognized. It is pathological to live in a dream world. Wishful thinking on our part is just as destructive as it is for them to live in their paranoid one.

Leave a Reply