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Friday, June 6, 2008

Real Life Rendition

The Justice Department’s ethics office is investigating the role that department lawyers may have played in the 2002 rendition of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was mistakenly placed on a terrorism watch-list. The details of the case, which according to the New York Times, provided the inspiration for last year’s film Rendition, outline the extraordinary constitutional abuses that have been perpetrated under the auspices of the “War on Terror.”

Mr. Arar was detained by American immigration officers during a layover in Kennedy International Airport and sent to Jordan where he was later released to Syrian authorities. According to statements, he spent a year in Syria and endured beatings with metal cables before finally being released and sent back to Canada in 2003.

The Canadian government, which admits that his name was added to its terrorist watch-list erroneously, eventually reached a settlement with Mr. Arar for $10.3 million. The American government, however, has refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing and continues to refuse Mr. Arar entry into the United States.

During a congressional hearing yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner acknowledged that the investigation into Mr. Arar’s treatment spent four years in limbo, until new evidence came to light in 2007. However, Skinner still contended that the United States acted properly in refusing Arar entry – technically required for his layover – because of his inclusion on the watch-list.

The investigation's conclusions deviated from Mr. Skinner's though. It claimed that a more prudent resolution would have been to send Mr. Arar back to Canada or Switzerland, where his flight originated. According to the Times, Mr. Skinner even acknowledged that the government's actions were “very questionable,” and “that he ‘could not rule out’ that Mr. Arar was sent to Syria with the intention of having him questioned under torture about possible connections to terrorists.”

Numerous policies have come to light lately exposing the extraordinary excesses of the Bush administration in the name of the “War on Terror.” With the start of military tribunals for five 9/11 suspects this week and the a Supreme Court decision on habeas corpus expected any day, it is clear just how far this administration has attempted to expand executive power. To learn more about this issue, check out our website at http://www.afj.org/connect-with-the-issues/expansion-executive-power.html.

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