Arar's case gets some sympathy. Senator Leahy has also requested more information and is being stonewalled. Hopefully, he will take furth action.
(Mar 8, 2007)
Maher Arar has received an apology as well as financial compensation from the Canadian government for the role federal officials played in having him sent from the United States to Syria where he was tortured. This was certainly appropriate. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was not the security risk that he was initially made out to be.
Canada, in short, has done what it can to enable Arar to live without any suspicion that he is a terrorist. Regrettably, up to this point, the government of the United States has not taken the same position. It has continued to keep Arar on a list of foreigners who are not allowed to enter the United States for security reasons, or, as the Canadian government might say, for so-called security reasons.
The case to completely clear Arar's name has been made at the highest level. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has gone so far as to say he suspects U.S. bureaucrats just don't want to acknowledge a mistake.
The American government's viewpoint may be unreasonable but there is little more the Canadian government can do on Arar's behalf. Ottawa cannot force the U.S. to instruct its border guards to permit Arar into that country should he wish to do so. The United States is a sovereign country, entitled to grant or deny entry to whoever it wants.
Arar's vindication in the U.S. will have to come from Americans, not Canadians. Fortunately, there is some evidence that quite a few Americans have heard of his case and are sympathetic to him.
Democrats in Congress have mentioned the Arar case as a good example of what should not happen. Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts has reintroduced a bill to halt the practice of sending people to countries where they will be tortured. This, of course, is exactly what happened to Arar. Markey has the support of 44 other Democrats. They think Arar's rights were grossly violated.
Markey, quite rightly, pointed out that this practice, "undermines our international standing because our own gross hypocrisy prevents us from advocating for improved human-rights policies around the globe." The process is even worse when it is applied to an innocent person such as Arar.
Clearly, some congressional leaders realize that some of the tactics that President George W. Bush's government has used in the war on terror have not helped anyone. They have only embarrassed Americans.
Like all countries, the United States has its faults, but it is still a country that vigorously debates positions taken by its government -- and that is good for the U.S. and good for democracy.