Arar personal history keeps him on watchlist

As far as I can tell the only thing about his personal history that would put him on a watch list is his association with Al Malki who was a target of a Canadian investigation. However, this guilt by association was thoroughly explored in the Candiian inquiry. Obviously many people probably associate with terror suspects without having any idea they are even terror suspects. There is no way you can rewrite history so if personal history is a ground for exclusion from the US many perfectly innocent people will be excluded. As the article notes probably an important reason for his continued exclusion is the law suit Arar has filed against the US.


Arar personal history keeps him on U.S. watch list: senior American official
Font: * * * * Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press
Published: Friday, January 26, 2007
OTTAWA (CP) — Maher Arar’s personal associations and travel history are enough to keep him on a U.S. security watch list, says a senior State Department official.

While Washington concedes these points may not warrant Arar’s presence on a Canadian security roster, they meet the threshold for the American list, the official told The Canadian Press.

The source, who asked not to be identified, stressed the information about Arar does not justify his 2002 deportation to Syria, where he was tortured into false confessions of involvement with the al-Qaida terrorist network.

But it provides some insight into why the United States has resisted pressure from Canada to expunge Arar’s name from its lookout and no-fly lists.

Lorne Waldman, one of Arar’s lawyers, said the U.S. reasoning makes no sense given the intensive examination of Arar’s case since his return to Canada in 2003.

“It sounds to me like a pretty pathetic justification.”

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, received a formal apology and $10.5 million in compensation Friday from Ottawa.

A federal inquiry cleared Arar of any terrorist links and said the RCMP provided misleading information about him to the United States before he was deported.

The telecommunications engineer came under scrutiny from the Mounties in Ottawa in October 2001 through his contact with Abdullah Almalki, the target of an anti-terrorism investigation known as Project A-O Canada.

A separate inquiry is now under way into the cases of Almalki and two other Arab-Canadians who, like Arar, were imprisoned in Syria.

Arar travelled frequently before being detained by U.S. authorities at a New York airport in September 2002, en route to Ottawa from a family holiday in Tunisia.

American officials recently gave Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day a look at the information they say warrants Arar’s continued presence on U.S. watch lists.

Day insisted there was nothing to suggest Arar is a security risk.

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins said it was presumptuous of Day to tell the United States who is allowed into its country. Wilkins was under orders from Washington to deliver the retort, said the State Department official.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised Friday to continue to press the Americans on the file. “We will not drop the matter,” he said.

A federal official close to the case, however, wondered what that would mean.

“There’s not much more we can do,” said the official, who spoke anonymously. “I think it’s one where we will agree to disagree.”

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy said Friday he expects to hear next week why Arar was sent to Syria by American authorities instead of back to Canada.

Leahy, who heads the Senate judicial committee, is waiting to be briefed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, perhaps Thursday, an aide said.

“The Canadian government has now taken several steps to accept responsibility for its role in sending Mr. Arar to Syria,” Leahy said in a statement.

“The question remains why, even if there were reasons to consider him suspicious, the U.S. government shipped him to Syria, where he was tortured, instead of to Canada for investigation or prosecution.”

Some attribute the American position to the fact that Arar is still suing U.S. officials.

A U.S. Appeals Court dismissed his lawsuit last February on national security grounds but his lawyers at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed an appeal in December.

On Friday, the centre called on the U.S. government to apologize to Arar, remove him from their watch list and allow his case to be heard in court.

“We are grateful that the Canadian government has had the humanity to try to right the terrible wrong that was done to Maher,” said lawyer Maria LaHood.

“We still hope the U.S. government will follow Canada’s lead.”

Democratic Representative Edward Markey also called for an apology, saying U.S. officials should “admit publicly that it was cruel to detain and transfer Maher Arar to Syria for torture.”

For many Arar’s case has become the best known example of extraordinary rendition, or sending foreign terror suspects to third countries for brutal interrogation.

The United States insists Arar was legally deported to his birthplace.

© Canadian Press 2007

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