Friday, August 10, 2007

Ottawa sacrificed Arar to save face with US, Syria

Ibbitson puts it all quite succinctly:National security my ass. Foreign Affairs, CSIS and especially the RCMP were simply trying to keep hidden their incompetent, duplicitous, disgraceful handling of the Arar file. And they're still at it.

The are still at it in the Iacobucci inquiry and they are still denying others such as Benatta any possibility of justice. All the while some Canadians are busy on the Great Wall protesting Chinese violations of Tibetan rights. Fine but why ignore what is going on here in our own backyard.


Ottawa sacrificed Arar to save face with U.S., Syria


August 10, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The federal government fought like blazes to keep the fact that the CIA sent Maher Arar to Syria from you - they fought so hard that it took a court order for you to hear it - because Ottawa doesn't want to lose face with the Americans, or the Syrians for that matter.

To preserve their trust, our government was prepared to sacrifice the trust of its own citizens. What are we to make of such a thing?

The blacked-out lines of Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor's report that are now available for all to see offer little that should surprise.

Of course the Central Intelligence Agency was at the heart of the decision to deport Mr. Arar to Syria. That's what the CIA does. We already knew - because the inquiry report describes it in grim detail - that Canadian intelligence and justice officials were feeding the Americans wrong information, though we now know that some of that wrong information came from Syria, where it had been pried under duress from another Syrian-Canadian, Ahmad Abou El Maati.

And we discover that at least one Canadian official warned his colleagues, after Mr. Arar had already been deported, that the Yanks probably wanted to send him somewhere where he could be tortured.

Big deal.

And yet the federal government refused to disclose this information, which Judge O'Connor wanted to make public, until a Federal Court judge ordered it to, because intelligence agencies will go to any length to avoid identifying each other as sources.

There is good reason to accept such secrecy as the necessary price of vigilance. Perhaps the single most important accomplishment of the American and Canadian governments in this decade has been preventing a second terrorist attack from occurring on either country's soil.

Since it is the first duty of government to secure the safety of its citizens, Ottawa and Washington deserve praise for carrying out that duty.

It also seemed reasonable for the federal government to insist that some portions of the Arar inquiry report be kept from the public.

There was always the risk that the inquiry could undermine trust and ease of communication between American and Canadian security and intelligence officials. That trust is crucial to strengthening the perimeter and to detecting and deterring future threats.

But the revelations of Judge O'Connor's report revealed greater concerns: the ineptness of the RCMP in managing the information it had on Mr. Arar; (the very ease of communication that many of us feared would be compromised by the inquiry was proved not to exist during the Arar affair); the great danger in which the force placed Mr. Arar by transmitting that information to the Americans without the proper caveats, and then the mendacity the Mounties employed in trying to cover up their responsibility.

By the time the report's findings were digested, the risk of damage to Canada's reputation among the spying fraternity was the least of our concerns. The more vital task was to restore Canadians' faith in the probity of their government and national police force.

For Ottawa to then fight to keep the public from hearing of the CIA's involvement in the affair - especially when any reasonable reader of the report could have deduced that involvement - shows that it is still more interested in international proprieties than in telling the truth to the Canadian people.

It is ludicrous to suppose that Canadian-American relations have been damaged because the CIA has been outed by the O'Connor report. That troubled American intelligence service already has enough on its plate right now.

The only real damage the federal government has done, through both Liberal and Conservative administrations, is to itself. There are things about the Arar affair that you can't be told, our government informed us, for reasons of national security.

National security my ass. Foreign Affairs, CSIS and especially the RCMP were simply trying to keep hidden their incompetent, duplicitous, disgraceful handling of the Arar file. And they're still at it.

Why should anyone trust anything that our government says about Maher Arar any more?

No comments: