Thursday, February 10, 2005

Extraordinary rendition

This is some scary stuff.
Arar, a thirty-four-year-old graduate of McGill University whose family emigrated to Canada when he was a teen-ager, was arrested on September 26, 2002, at John F. Kennedy Airport. He was changing planes; he had been on vacation with his family in Tunisia, and was returning to Canada. Arar was detained because his name had been placed on the United States Watch List of terrorist suspects. He was held for the next thirteen days, as American officials questioned him about possible links to another suspected terrorist. Arar said that he barely knew the suspect, although he had worked with the man’s brother. Arar, who was not formally charged, was placed in handcuffs and leg irons by plainclothes officials and transferred to an executive jet. The plane flew to Washington, continued to Portland, Maine, stopped in Rome, Italy, then landed in Amman, Jordan.

During the flight, Arar said, he heard the pilots and crew identify themselves in radio communications as members of “the Special Removal Unit.” The Americans, he learned, planned to take him next to Syria. Having been told by his parents about the barbaric practices of the police in Syria, Arar begged crew members not to send him there, arguing that he would surely be tortured. His captors did not respond to his request; instead, they invited him to watch a spy thriller that was aired on board.

Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar said, he was driven to Syria, where interrogators, after a day of threats, “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. “You just give up,” he said. “You become like an animal.”

A year later, in October, 2003, Arar was released without charges, after the Canadian government took up his cause. Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador in Washington, announced that his country had found no links between Arar and terrorism. Arar, it turned out, had been sent to Syria on orders from the U.S. government, under a secretive program known as “extraordinary rendition.” This program had been devised as a means of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for interrogation and prosecution. Critics contend that the unstated purpose of such renditions is to subject the suspects to aggressive methods of persuasion that are illegal in America—including torture...

Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, the program expanded beyond recognition—becoming, according to a former C.I.A. official, “an abomination.” What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects—people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants—came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms “illegal enemy combatants.” Many of them have never been publicly charged with any crime.


Blue said...

The one, the "Canadian who was shipped to Syria" story has been around since it happened in October 2003. I'm sure you read about it on dkos the same time I did.

For two, this is so godawful horrible that it's hard for me to believe. This really could be the downfall of the entire administration if it were true. Which is why, if it's not exaggerated, I don't understand it's not on ever major news media outlet. So my first presumption is it's flagrantly wrong in some way, but of course I would do anything to bring it higher into the public consciousness - so that we either find out what's wrong with the story, or bring those responsible to accountability.

Neil Sinhababu said...

It was around January 19, 2004 when I started seriously reading blogs again -- I remember becoming a big John Edwards fan right after the Iowa primary. So it's likely that I missed that the first time around.

There are a lot of things that should've brought down this administration by now. If your party controls Congress, there seems to be no limit on what you can get away with.

Blue said...

No, I'm pretty sure "kidnapping and torturing an innocent and well-established Canadian in another country" really would make a difference.

I mean sure, he's not an American, but he's the next best thing.