Friday, October 26, 2007

Rice: US looking into Arar status (again!)

The US already looking into this matter once before. It will be interesting if they decide any differently. Last time they just kept the status quo in spite of all the evidence the O'Connor presented that showed Arar was not a terrorist. Arar was sent to Syria on an order issued by a high official in the Bush hierarchy on the basis of an immigration "hearing" where Arar's lawyer was not present. Arar was judged to be a member of Al Qaeda! Here is a short clip from the Washington Post.
Then-Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson, in his capacity as acting attorney general, signed the highly unusual order, citing national security and declaring that to send the man, Maher Arar, home to Canada would be "prejudicial to the interests of the United States," according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

U.S. to look into Arar's status: Rice
Last Updated: Thursday, December 21, 2006 | 2:26 PM ET
CBC News
U.S. security officials will review why Canadian Maher Arar is still on a U.S. terrorist watch list, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday following a meeting with Canada's foreign affairs minister.

"It will of course be looked at," Rice told reporters at a joint news conference with Peter MacKay in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, shown after an appearance in Stellarton, N.S., in September, discussed Maher Arar on Thursday. Rice said his case 'will be looked at.'
(Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press) Rice said she instructed Michael Chertoff, the Department of Homeland Security's secretary, and the Justice Department to look further into the matter.

"He said he would examine it and would get back to me."

But Rice reiterated that the U.S. makes its own security decisions based on independent information.

"We value accuracy in cases but we do have our own process," she said. "It needs to be understood that in the post-Sept. 11 circumstances, we are determined to protect our borders."

MacKay said he brought up Arar's status in the meeting with his U.S. counterpart and reiterated that Arar has been cleared by the Canadian government of any ties to terrorism.

"There's clarity in Canada's position with the findings of Mr. Arar," MacKay said. "I'm very pleased at the decision to revisit the restriction on his case."

Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, was seized at a New York airport in 2002 and sent to Syria, where he was tortured. A judicial inquiry into his case led by Justice Dennis O'Connor was set up after Arar returned to Canada more than a year later.

O'Connor concluded Arar had no terror links and the RCMP had given misleading information to U.S. authorities, which may have been the reason he was sent to Syria.

Parliament apologized to Arar and the government has been asking Washington to remove him from a watch list that prevents him from travelling to the U.S. and makes him a marked man, despite being cleared in Canada.

However, the U.S. has refused and has not explained why.

'Go our own way'
The meeting between MacKay and Rice came a day after an American security official bluntly stated the U.S. would follow its own path on Arar without informing Canadians on its reasons.

"With respect to some issues, we're going to have to respectfully but firmly go our own way and the Arar matter, at least for now, is one of those," Paul Rosenzweig, acting assistant secretary for international affairs for the Department of Homeland Security, told reporters in Washington.

"As for the sharing of information with the Canadian government, while I do recognize that in an idealized world we would share every bit of intelligence information with all of our partners, in the real world that is an idealization that isn't achievable."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Sun Media that "as near as I can see, we simply have a U.S. government that won't admit it's wrong."

He said he can't compel the U.S. to explain why it still views Arar with suspicion.

"I'm not aware of the U.S. violating any law by not sharing it with us, but I'm obviously disappointed that they don't seem at this point to have responded fully to the conclusions of our own inquiry, and I have no explanation for why they're taking the position that they are."

Arar's lawsuit against the U.S. has been cited as one reason American authorities won't talk about the case.

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