Thursday, May 10, 2007

Arar report Censorhip issue still moot

The government whether the Conservatives or Liberals have been in power has blocked any attempt to reveal information under the pretext of national security. That O'Connor put the material in his report shows that he thinks it is no danger to national security. It is probably embarassing to the government or might say something about other intelligence services. Even what is not censored shows that the US authorities in effect lied about what they were up to until Arar was already bound for Jordan--and then to Syria.

Arar report mired in war of words

Lawyers battle to make blacked-out sections public
May 01, 2007 04:30 AM
Allan Woods
Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA–The federal government can no longer be trusted when it claims details that were blacked-out in a report on the rendition and torture of Maher Arar pose a risk to national security, a federal court heard yesterday.

The legal battle to make public 1,500 words of a lengthy report into the matter emerged for a few hours from behind closed doors, just long enough for Arar's lawyers to press their case to allow all Canadians access to the entirety of Justice Dennis O'Connor's findings.

Arar, his lawyers and the public have not seen what is in the edited version of the report.

"It may be only 1,500 words to the government, but to Mr. Arar it is part of the story that the commissioner believes he should know," lawyer Lorne Waldman said in submissions to Justice Simon Noel. "If we get anything less than this ... we are not going to get enough."

Arar was detained in 2002 during a stopover in New York on the unfounded suspicion he was an Islamic extremist and linked to Al Qaeda. The U.S. sent him to Syria where he was jailed for 10 months, tortured and forced to confess to terrorist activities.

O'Connor's two-year probe found the allegations were unfounded, and that Canadian officials likely caused his ordeal when they passed on incorrect information to the Americans.

Arar later received an apology from the Harper government and was awarded $11.5 million in compensation.

Government lawyers claim that releasing information that has been withheld from O'Connor's report could compromise national security. But Paul Cavalluzzo, a lawyer for the commission, said yesterday the public interest in the case outweighs any national security concerns.

"This commission has found that the government over-claimed" its national security concerns, he told the court. "As a result ... some significant areas that would have been made public were not."

Cavalluzzo said the issues at play still remain topical: balancing the government's need to be transparent and accountable against the risk of compromising the country's defences.

"This commission has said that the information that remains (blacked out) is important to the public," he said.

Alain Préfontaine, the lawyer representing the Crown, said the judge must find that the public interest clearly outweighs threats to national security if he is to order that the information be made public. He said the 1,500 words are "not critical" to the case showing Arar's innocence.

Waldman rejected that argument, recalling how the federal government first denied having any hand in Arar's rendition, then resisted calls for a public inquiry to resolve the matter. Along the way, Ottawa avoided the release of documents at any cost, even when it was clearly not putting the country at risk.

"We have no trust because the government has done nothing to gain our trust," he said.

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