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View Full Version : THat Canadian-Syrian Guy on "60 Minutes" Last Night-Is He Innocent?


ralph124c
01-22-2004, 08:19 AM
I caught the tail end of the report on "60 Minutes". It concerned the fate of a canadian citizen (of Syrian birth), who was arrested in the USA, after 9/11.He was interrogated, and charged with being an accessory to terrorists (Al-Queda). Instead of being deportedto Canada, he was deported to SYRIA, where the Syrian intelligence organization worked him over (pretty badly). He claims that he was totured for a year, and then released back to Canada.
Now, I know that "60 Minutes" is not exactly the peakofobjective journalism, but I have a lot of reasons to doubt this guy's version of events:
-he was in the US illegally
-he would give NO explanation ofhis activities in the USA
-he would notdiscuss his possible ties with several islamic organizations
-finally, why did the Canadian government apparentlt aquiesce to hisdeportation to Syria?
Of course, I don't understand what WE are doing with the present Syrian regime..officially, it is a sponsor of terrorism.
Anybody know what ACTUALLY happened to thisguy? :confused:

RickJay
01-22-2004, 08:22 AM
Well, to answer the title of your OP - has he been proven guilty?

No?

Then he's innocent.

CarnalK
01-22-2004, 08:42 AM
I didn't catch 60 minutes but wasn't the guy merely doing a stop-over in the US? So I don't understand your first two objections. From the 60 minutes site:
The man making the claim is a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was taken into custody, under suspicion of being connected with al Qaeda, while changing planes in New York.

Also, I'm not sure he was actually charged with anything.

ralph said:
finally, why did the Canadian government apparentlt aquiesce to hisdeportation to Syria?

This is still very much in dispute, CDN gov is denying.

cowgirl
01-22-2004, 09:26 AM
It's an ugly, ugly story.

He was travelling through New York on his way home to Canada from a vacation. He is a Canadian citizen. You can read the whole tale here (http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/arar/).

Canada initially blamed it all on the US, and now the US is saying that Canada somehow knew about the deportation. Chretien (then prime minister) insists he didn't but there are suspicions that the RCMP (federal police) did. We would all like to know the full story on that but the Attorney General (the former, I think) refused an inquiry, which makes the whole thing stink even more.

I have no reason to doubt his innocence. Since to this day he hasn't actually been charged with anything, my opinion stands.

So, in answer to your points:

- he was in the US legally
- his explanation for being there was that he was changing planes
- why should he discuss his ties to Islamic organizations? can we capture and interrogate anyone we want, and call them 'guilty' if they refuse?
- lots of people are demanding answers re: Canadian complicity in the situation, but I don't have enough faith in the integrity of the RCMP to believe that they knew what they were doing

Shade
01-22-2004, 09:28 AM
Personally, I would say it's not that important whether he's guilty; what's most worrying is that he says he was detained in the USA on a stopover and deported to a country that tortured him. (Though I suppose if he was known with certainty at that time to be guilty of terrorist acts my sympathy for him would be a lot less, but if the rest of his story is true it's still terrifying, because what if, hypothetically, the next guy in that situation is entirely innocent, no one would know that.)

I've never heard anyone arguing convincingly that those parts of his story are likely to be made up, but I admit it's possible.

Malthus
01-22-2004, 02:04 PM
How can he be "innocent" or "guilty" if he has never been charged with anything?

bonzer
01-22-2004, 02:04 PM
Since there wasn't much coverage of the case in the British media (though he was interviewed on the BBC's Today Programme after his release), I can't add anything to the factual details that are available by searching online. However, I can add a very tenuous personal angle.

At the time of his deportation I was working for a company that was closely involved with Mathworks (http://www.mathworks.com), for whom Arar had worked. Our small US offices regularly liased with them and at least one guy was himself ex-Mathworks. Entirely in the normal everyday course of things, all of them had got to know Arar on his trips to the US. I believe he may even have done a small amount of consultancy work on our behalf. Things had even reached the stage where the possibility of him being hired permanently by us was being discussed. That was abruptly interrupted by his deportation and disappearance.

I'm not in a position to issue a character reference, but the people I know who know him think he's an on-the-level bloke and trust him.

It really is a small world. Which is reason enough for agencies to do their damnest to avoid wrecking lives by latching onto false positives when it comes to suspect connections.

laigle
01-22-2004, 03:23 PM
My question:

Let's pretend for a second that the guy's guilty. I don't believe that, and I've seen no evidence credible or otherwise to suggest it. But let's just make believe.

So, we sent a supposed terrorist off to a state sponsor of terror then? This is our solution to catching terrorists on our soil now is it? What's next, we catch Osama and pay his fare to Iran? I sure am glad we're getting ourselves screamed at all over the place about Gitmo then.

JHW
01-22-2004, 04:17 PM
Latest news is that Arar is suing the American government -- Globe and Mail story here (http://www.globeandmail.ca/servlet/story/RTGAM.20040122.warar0122_2/BNStory/International/).

matt_mcl
01-23-2004, 01:07 AM
And good on him. If that shit hadn't already gone far enough with Berna Cruz, it would have certainly done so with him.

It scared the shit out of me. If the US immigration authorities won't respect a Canadian passport with Damascus written in for place of birth, why should they respect one with Saint John, New Brunswick on it?

Bibliovore
01-23-2004, 06:05 AM
What pisses me off the most is that faced with the choice of deprting him to Canada or Syria, they chose Syria because they knew that he would be tortured for the imformation they wanted.

Lawyers in his lawsuit said that "Federal officials removed Mr. Arar to Syria under the program precisely because Syria could use methods of interrogation to obtain information from Mr. Arar that would not be legally or morally acceptable in this country or other democracies."

This guy was a Canadian citizen, and he wasn't even charged with anything!

Ugly, ugly, ugly. I just hope he sues their asses off for the ten months of torture he suffered

mangeorge
01-24-2004, 10:43 PM
From the Patriot Act (http://www.epic.org/privacy/terrorism/hr3162.html);

AN ACT

To deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, Etc, etc, etc.
(bolding mine)
Doesn't the bolded phrase in the quote pretty much say that they can do whatever they want to do?
Peace,
mangeorge

Eva Luna
01-24-2004, 11:05 PM
It really is a small world. Which is reason enough for agencies to do their damnest to avoid wrecking lives by latching onto false positives when it comes to suspect connections.

Abso-friggin-lutely. Not to mention that the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, under which we are supposed not to send even convicted felons back to a country in which they may be tortured. Even under expedited removal, under which people who have not officially passed through immigration inspection and formally admitted to the U.S. can be sent back to where they came from without a formal hearing before a judge, the immigration inspector is supposed to ask the potential deportee whether there is any reason he/she fears being sent back. If the potential deportee says yes, there is supposed to be a formal interview to elicit further detail, called a "credible fear interview." Decisions to send someone back are also supposed to be reviewed by a supervisor, I believe.

Given that Arar wasn't convicted of anything, he shouldn't have been sent anywhere, let alone to Syria, at least not on the basis that the Feds are alleging. Normally the only reason a person would be subjected to expedited removal is if there was evidence that he had committed fraud, such as lying about the purpose of the visit. But given that he was just changing planes, I can't even conceive of how he ended up being deported; he wouldn't have had any reason to pass through immigration if he was just waiting for a connecting flight.

The whole thing makes no sense, and I for one would love to see the court transcripts.

hansel
01-24-2004, 11:16 PM
he was in the US illegallyAs a Canadian citizen, he can legally be in the U.S. without any visa; effectively, if he wasn't denied entry, then he was legally admitted as a tourist.

xayoz306
01-25-2004, 05:29 AM
From what I have seen and read, Arar was deported to Syria. The Canadian government had brought it up to the United States before he was released, on a couple of occasions. I remember reading about it in the National Post.

Personally, I think that a person should be deported back to the country of his citizenship. By sending him to Syria, the US was essentially skirting around diplomatic convention. It was an attempt to make a person whom they suspected of being a potential terrorist on the sole basis of his nation of birth a villain. IMO, this is a bang on case of the United STates using racial profiling. In addition, they also essentially said to the rest of the world, "We don't care who you are, or where you come from, we will treat you like we please."

ralph124c
01-25-2004, 06:21 AM
I only saw the last few minutes of the piece..so I don't knowmost of the details. However, two things are possible:
(1): Arar was a vitim of mista ken identity, The FBI may have confused him with a known Al-Queda operative. However, the FBI must have contacted the Canadian authorities (the RCMP?); they must have also been mistaken. Since nobody in Chretien'sgovernment will talk about it (including Chretien) the mistaken identity is probably likely.
(2) Arar was actually an intelligence agent, or a double agent. If he were an Al-Quedah operative, the FBI probably wouldhave kept him. The Syrian intelligent agency claims not to have mistreated arar,and he claims the opposite-so it is impossible to confirm this theory.
What isinteresteing:this month a Saudi nationalwas arrested upon his arrivalinthe US (he was found to be carrying 5 small firecrackers in his luggage). He was arrested and charged, then released on $50,000 bail (he's now back in SA). I expect to see another "60 Minutes" piece bashing the racist American TSA..but this guy could well have been an Al-Quedah test case (seeing if small amounts of explosives could be sneaked past airport inspections).
Anyway, if Arar is innocent, I'm sorry for what happened tohim. However, I think there is a lot more to this story.

Avenger
01-25-2004, 06:31 AM
You missed:

(3) The US immigration authorities, presumably at the behest of the US Governement, are using racist and illegal methods with no regard for international conventions or basic human rights and are condoning and implicitly encouraging the use of torture by foreign governments.

And I'm not sure what you mean by "if Arar is innocent". He's not been proved guilty, no evidence to even charge him with anything, so the presumption is that he is innocent.

hansel
01-25-2004, 08:49 AM
For what it's worth, here's a copy (http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/11/5/94852/0804) of Arar's statement to the media on Nov. 4th. It's pretty comprehensive, from his perspective. There's also a much more detailed discussion of the whole case.

hansel
01-25-2004, 08:53 AM
And Here's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar) the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/) page on Arar, which is more neutral and contains links to more supporting material.

Eva Luna
01-25-2004, 09:12 AM
For what it's worth, here's a copy (http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/11/5/94852/0804) of Arar's statement to the media on Nov. 4th. It's pretty comprehensive, from his perspective. There's also a much more detailed discussion of the whole case.

I don't know whether to thank you or curse you right now. I made the mistake of actually reading the link. To all: be forewarned that it describes Arar's torture in some pretty graphic detail.

What it doesn't explain, though, is how he ever ended up going through immigration inspection in the first place. If he was just changing planes and didn't want to leave the international area of the airport, he shouldn't have needed to.

Northern Piper
01-25-2004, 09:32 AM
Decisions to send someone back are also supposed to be reviewed by a supervisor, I believe.

Given that Arar wasn't convicted of anything, he shouldn't have been sent anywhere, let alone to Syria, at least not on the basis that the Feds are alleging. Normally the only reason a person would be subjected to expedited removal is if there was evidence that he had committed fraud, such as lying about the purpose of the visit. But given that he was just changing planes, I can't even conceive of how he ended up being deported; he wouldn't have had any reason to pass through immigration if he was just waiting for a connecting flight.Eva, I don't have a cite, but news reports here in Canada indicate that he was deported under a special national security provision, not the usual immigration laws. That power can only be exercised if authorised by fairly high-ranking officials in the Justice Department. I believe the official who signed it had a rank something like Assistant Attorney General.

As for how he came to the attention of authorities if he was just transferring - well, isn't that what the security watch lists are all about, just like those planes that were turned back at Christmas time? This wasn't an immigration matter at all - it was supposedly national security.

Eva Luna
01-25-2004, 09:44 AM
[b]As for how he came to the attention of authorities if he was just transferring - well, isn't that what the security watch lists are all about, just like those planes that were turned back at Christmas time? This wasn't an immigration matter at all - it was supposedly national security.

Maybe so, but from his description it sounds like he was waiting in the regular information line, not that the Feds snatched him when he walked off the plane.

As for who needs to sign off on a deportation like that, I'll do some poking around at work this week re: required judicial review, national security, and the Convention Against Torture. The interrelationship between these items under case law is still very much under debate.

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal

matt_mcl
01-25-2004, 04:01 PM
What it doesn't explain, though, is how he ever ended up going through immigration inspection in the first place. If he was just changing planes and didn't want to leave the international area of the airport, he shouldn't have needed to.

Are you sure? I'm not certain how this works, but the last time I changed planes in the US (in 1999), I definitely had to show my ID to someone in uniform, who resembled a customs officer and who typed it into their computer.

The Flying Dutchman
01-25-2004, 04:48 PM
At the moment, my money is on Arar being innocent, but that is beside the point. We have a Canadian citizen here being sent off for the purpose of further interogation through torture pure and simple. No respect for Canada here, and no respect for human rights. For Ashcroft to say that they got assurances that there would be no torture is a cruel joke. It underscores his expectation of torture and explains why the more expensive Syrian trip won out over a quick trip to Canada. Claims of Canadian permission, (from whom, the cops ?) are ridiculous.

People that know me, know that I'm generally a US government supporter on the war on terrorism, but in my books Ashcroft should be fired outright and we need to find out if Canadian officials can be implicated.

This really angers me.

MikeS
01-25-2004, 06:50 PM
What it doesn't explain, though, is how he ever ended up going through immigration inspection in the first place. If he was just changing planes and didn't want to leave the international area of the airport, he shouldn't have needed to.


Flights to and from Canada are handled differently from all other international flights in the U.S. In particular, they generally depart from the domestic terminals, like flights within the U.S. So Arar would have had to go through U.S. Immigration at the international terminal (or area) before getting on a flight back to Montreal.

Eva Luna
01-25-2004, 09:53 PM
Flights to and from Canada are handled differently from all other international flights in the U.S. In particular, they generally depart from the domestic terminals, like flights within the U.S. So Arar would have had to go through U.S. Immigration at the international terminal (or area) before getting on a flight back to Montreal.

Good point; I hadn't thought about that. Oddly enough, I've been to Siberia, but never to Canada. (I know, I know, it's on my list!)

Sunspace
01-25-2004, 10:57 PM
MikeS said:
Flights to and from Canada are handled differently from all other international flights in the U.S. In particular, they generally depart from the domestic terminals, like flights within the U.S. So Arar would have had to go through U.S. Immigration at the international terminal (or area) before getting on a flight back to Montreal.Not quite. From Toronto and other large airports in Canada, transborder flights direct to the US are cleared by US customs and immigration on the ground in Canada. They are effectively US domestic flights once they leave the ground, and have a much greater choice of destinations since they do not need custom and immigration services on arrival. There are many commuter-type airlines out of Toronto going to smaller cities all over the US north east.

Last year, I was 'pre-cleared' in Toronto when going to Cincinnati. When coming back, the plane landed in Toronto and I had to go through Canadian customs and immigration as usual.

Now, if Arar was just changing planes, he should have remained in the transit area and never have had to pass through US Immigration... but I have heard that the US does not operate transit areas outside their immigration control at their airports: everyone touching US soil must encounter US immigration, even if they are merely traveling on and have no intention of actually visiting the US! Eva Luna, is this true? If so, this explains how they got Arar.

When I went from Canada to Europe, I changed planes in Amsterdam and did not encounter immigration controls intil the end of the journey in Helsinki.

I agree, the Arar case stinks, and not just on the US side of the border. Headlines (http://news.google.ca/news?hl=en&edition=ca&q=Maher+Arar&btnG=Search+News) last week were abaout the federal police* raiding the home of a journalist who wrote about the story in the Ottawa Citizen last novenber.

*the Gendarmerie Royaux Canadien, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the famous Mounties

Eva Luna
01-25-2004, 11:08 PM
Now, if Arar was just changing planes, he should have remained in the transit area and never have had to pass through US Immigration... but I have heard that the US does not operate transit areas outside their immigration control at their airports: everyone touching US soil must encounter US immigration, even if they are merely traveling on and have no intention of actually visiting the US! Eva Luna, is this true? If so, this explains how they got Arar.

I'm not sure, never having had to take a connecting domestic flight after arriving in the U.S. from abroad; I've always left the airport right after my initial arrival from abroad. That might be the case in some airports, maybe smaller ones that don't have a whole international terminal. and I honestly can't remember the layout of JFK (it's been almost 9 years since I arrived there from abroad). Maybe someone who's done this recently can clarify. Since the recent abolition of the Transit Without Visa program, though, this might now be the case.

Sunspace
01-25-2004, 11:28 PM
"Transit without Visa" program? What was that?

Eva Luna
01-26-2004, 12:20 AM
"Transit without Visa" program? What was that?

Basically, it meant that if your nationality meant that you would normally need a visitor visa to enter the U.S., but you were only changing flights and didn't need to leave the airport, you were exempt from the visa requirement.

Sunspace
01-26-2004, 07:35 AM
That's what I thought. But it still seems to imply that the person would need to pass immigration control, even if they weren't leaving the airport.

Sunspace
01-28-2004, 08:10 PM
I am glad to say that the Canadian federal government has bowed to pressure and is going to conduct an inquiry (http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1075291136761&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154) into who said what to the US immigration authorities.

GoogleNews search on 'Maher Arar' (http://news.google.ca/news?hl=en&edition=ca&q=Maher+Arar&btnG=Search+News)

spanna
01-29-2004, 02:49 AM
Now I understand what "Land of the Free" means.

If you are a US citizen you are free and have rights, the rest of the world can be jailed and tortured without access to any defense. :smack:

cowgirl
01-29-2004, 01:25 PM
(Anecdotally: when I flew through the US I had to go through some kind of procedure where my passport was checked - and that was before 9/11 - I had the dubious pleasure of spending the night in Miami Airport during the Florida Vote, watching CNN. Ugh.)

I am thrilled that there will be an inquiry, but utterly cynical about the timing.

Now Paul Martin can have an election without everyone asking him 'What about the inquiry?' - but the results of said inquiry won't be out until well after the election. Best of both worlds, he gets.

Sunspace
01-29-2004, 01:36 PM
An interesting opinion column (http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1075331417258&call_pageid=968332188774&col=968350116467) from Today's Toronto Star.On the face of it, a public inquiry seems politically shrewd. There is significant support for Arar... For the government, a probe narrowly focused on the RCMP would be best. But O'Connor may not oblige. In his Walkerton inquiry, he didn't shy away from wading into broad political issues. Let us hope he takes the same approach here.

The Arar case is not just about so-called rogue Mounties feeding dubious information to the Americans. Nor is the Arar case just about Maher Arar.

At base, it is about Canada's security relationship with the United States in the post 9/11 world... [and] whether Canadian security agencies should so freely share information with rogue governments. ...O'Connor may also want to look at how security investigations at home mysteriously resulted in Canadians other than Arar being imprisoned abroad.

St. Urho
01-29-2004, 03:29 PM
I'm not sure, never having had to take a connecting domestic flight after arriving in the U.S. from abroad; I've always left the airport right after my initial arrival from abroad. That might be the case in some airports, maybe smaller ones that don't have a whole international terminal. and I honestly can't remember the layout of JFK (it's been almost 9 years since I arrived there from abroad). Maybe someone who's done this recently can clarify. Since the recent abolition of the Transit Without Visa program, though, this might now be the case.

I haven't made a connecting flight since 1996. We flew from Paris to Chicago (O'Hare) direct then caught a connecting flight to home in Michigan. We cleared US Customs at O'Hare.