Leahy questions Gonzales on Arar affair

Leahy is wrong in saying that Arar would have been held and charged if he had been returned to Canada. In fact the US authorities were informed that Canada had no grounds upon which to arrest Arar and charge him.
Gonzales is a poor excuse for a lawyer. He wants to redefine torture out of existence except in the absolute worst cases. No doubt that is why Bush wanted him appointed. How anyone can say with a straight face that they had assurances from Syria that Arar would not be tortured is beyond me, especially since the whole purpose of sending him there was to extract information by torture.
Chertoff is a complete incompetent. He seems not to know that there is nothing theoretical about Arar's position. He has already not attended an award given him in the US because he feared he might be detained. This is the same idiot who ran the New Orleans relief programme. He learned that there were people in a stadium in dire straits long after every one else had seen it on TV!

Thursday » January 18 » 2007

U.S. Senate demands answers from White House on Arar affair

Sheldon Alberts
CanWest News Service
Thursday, January 18, 2007
WASHINGTON —U.S. Senate Democrats on Thursday threatened congressional hearings into the Maher Arar affair, calling the deportation of the Canadian engineer to Syria a “black mark” on America. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, demanded the Bush administration provide intelligence information to back its claim Arar was ever a security threat to Americans. The Vermont Democrat also asked for a detailed explanation about why Arar still remains on a U.S. terror watch list despite being cleared last year by a Canadian inquiry. During a heated exchange at the committee with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Leahy said he was perplexed “this country has not said anything at all that we made a mistake or had any apology” to Arar.“The Canadian government has apologized for its part in this debacle,” Leahy said.“Why is he on a (U.S.) government watch list if he’s been found completely innocent by this Canadian commission?”Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was detained by U.S. authorities at New York’s JFK airport in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured for nearly a year. Justice Dennis O’Connor, in report last September to the federal government, found no evidence Arar was a security threat and said the RCMP gave false information to U.S. authorities identifying the former Ottawa engineer as an Islamic extremist. Former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli resigned over the case and apologized last year —the only Canadian official to publicly express regret to Arar and his family. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has actually deferred an apology until a civil suit against the federal government is complete.Gonzales promised to provide Democrats and Republicans on the judiciary committee with a confidential briefing on Arar within a week, saying he had “some very definite views about this particular case.”In fact, Gonzales added: “We may be able to say more about this publicly shortly. I’m just not at liberty at this time to say more.” Leahy said he found it inexcusable that U.S. officials did not return Arar to Canada after detaining him on suspicions of connections to a terrorist network.“We knew damn well if he went back to Canada he wouldn’t be tortured. He would be held and he would be investigated,” Leahy thundered, wagging his finger at Gonzales. “We also knew damn well if he went to Syria he would 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. It’s a black mark on us. It has brought about the condemnation of some of our closest and best allies.”Gonzales said “there were assurances sought that (Arar) would not be tortured” by Syria.“We understand what our legal obligations are with respect to when someone is either removed, extradited or rendered to another country,” Gonzales said. “We understand what our obligations are under the conventions against torture, and we do take the steps to ensure that those obligations are being met.”Because Arar is currently suing the U.S. government, Gonzales said he could not make any more extensive comments. Leahy, however, was undeterred.“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,” he said. “Canadians, who have been our closest allies, longest unguarded frontier in the world, they’re justifiably wondering what’s happened to us ... Let’s not create more terrorism around the world by telling the world that we cannot keep up to our basic standards and beliefs.”After Leahy paused, Gonzales told the senator “before you get more upset, perhaps you should wait to receive the briefing.”Replied Leahy: “I’ll wait (until) next week for that briefing. If we don’t get it, I guarantee you there will be another hearing on this issue.”The confrontation follows Canadian requests last year that the U.S. provide information showing why Arar remains on a U.S. terror watch list. Ottawa also filed a formal complaint about Arar’s treatment by American law-enforcement authorities. Public Security Minister Stockwell Day, in Washington for meetings with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said the U.S. has since provided Canada with some new information on Arar. Nothing in the U.S. dossier so far has changed Canada’s view Arar poses no threat to either country, said Day, who discussed the case with Chertoff during their Thursday meeting. “We have made it clear to the Americans we have removed Arar from the (Canadian terror watch) list, as we have with his family, and there has been no further evidence presented to us suggesting we should have done otherwise,” said Day.“We have seen some recent (U.S.) information that has not altered our opinion on this at all.”The Bush administration agreed to review the intelligence file on Arar after an appeal last month by Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she has personally asked Chertoff to re-examine the Arar case. But Chertoff told reporters he was “not at liberty to comment” on Arar because of privacy rules. Regardless of whether Arar remains on a terror list, he said, is “kind of a hypothetical issue” because it is only relevant if he tries to enter the U.S. “If and when anybody wants to come into the United States and present themselves, we will make a judgment at that time about their admissibility,” Chertoff said.

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.


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