Chertoff is certainly a piece of work. Imagine Arar is supposed to try and cross the border and risk being nabbed again and rendered somewhere, perhaps to Guantanamo for a change of scenery. It seems highly unlikely that the US has much more on Arar than what the Canadians gave them--and lots of that was wrong. If they had then they would have shared it with the Canadians are at least they are supposed to. Anyway if Stockwell Day saw it and it didn't change his mind it is highly unlikely that there is any damning evidence that they have even if David Wilkins says their decision was based on other sources than Canadian info. Earlier another US authority said that the decision was based on Canadian info. I will have to look that source up unless some reader has it handy!
Arar gets no break in Washington, but snowbirds do
Last Updated: Friday, January 19, 2007 | 8:08 AM ET
Washington's homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff, says Canadians wintering in the United States will be allowed to fly home without passports after a new rule goes into effect Jan. 23.
U.S. Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff and Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day met in Washington Thursday.
But he isn't saying whether Maher Arar — back in Canada after being grabbed by U.S. officials, flown overseas and tortured in a Syrian prison — will ever get into the United States again.
The way for Arar to find out is to go to the border and try, he said.
"I'm simply going to say that this becomes a relevant issue only if and when somebody presents themself to come into the United States. Otherwise, it's kind of a hypothetical issue."
Chertoff declined to discuss statements by other American officials, including the U.S. ambassador to Canada, that Arar remains on a watch list that bars him from crossing the border or flying in U.S. air space.
Standing beside Canada's public safety minister, Stockwell Day, at a Washington news conference, he stressed the "good news" that most Canadians flying into or out of the United States were carrying passports, even though the rule requiring them was not yet in force.
Maher Arar was detained at a New York airport in 2002 on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. He was flown to Syria, where he spent a year under interrogation in prison.
In the week of Jan. 8, about 96 percent of Canadian air travellers carried passports, up from 93 per cent in December, he said.
A similar rule for ground travel is to take effect in 2008.
"Of course, we'll always be open to consider hardship cases," Chertoff said, "and one thing I did say to Stockwell is that for Canadians who are snowbirds who are returning to Canada, we will allow them to depart the United States without having a passport for some significant period of time to avoid the problem of people who may have come last year, before the requirement.
"We don't want to strand them here, although I'm sure they'd like to stay an extra month in the warm weather."
On the subject of Arar, the two men seemed to agree that Washington has no information about the Syrian-born Canadian that Ottawa doesn't have.
Arar's ordeal began when he was detained during a stopover in New York in 2002, apparently on the basis of a bad tip from the RCMP.
Day noted that Arar was taken off Canada's border watch list after a public inquiry cleared him of any connection to terrorism in September.
Asked why he is still on the U.S. watch list, Day said: "Our officials recently looked at all the U.S. information and that does not change our position. We are still maintaining that he should not be on that [U.S.] list."
Chertoff said: "I know there's been some discussion between our law enforcement authorities and Canadian authorities about information to make sure that we have access to common information."
In December, the U.S. ambassador to Canada issued a statement suggesting that the Americans knew something about Arar that Justice Dennis O'Connor, whose inquiry report exonerated him, did not.
"Mr. Arar's original removal from the United States in 2002 was based on information from a variety of sources, as is his current watch-list status," U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins said.