News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Canadian case an argument against rendition, torture

Those who believe national security justifies torturing terror suspects abroad should take a close look at the case of Maher Arar.

U.S. authorities, acting on intelligence from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, arrested Mr. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian software engineer, at Kennedy Airport on Sept. 26, 2002, and sent him to Syria for interrogation as a suspected member of al-Qaida, a link he denied.

U.S. authorities did not charge Mr. Arar with a crime, nor seek court approval for his apprehension, detention or rendition. He spent nearly a year in a Syrian prison. On his release in 2003, Mr. Arar said he was severely beaten and whipped with electrical cables during extensive interrogations.

A 2-year inquiry into Mr. Arar's case concluded this week that he was wrongly accused and detained.

"I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada," Justice Dennis O'Connor said Monday in a three-volume report on the inquiry's findings.

Many of us reject rendition and torture simply because we believe it is wrong. The United States is supposed to be a country that supports and values human rights.

But even if we rationalize that national security justifies torture and rendition, without due process and court oversight, we must at least admit that authorities can sometimes be wrong about their suspicions.

And when they are wrong, as in the case of Mr. Arar, then we become the terrorists and human-rights violators.

Mr. Arar lost more than a few months of his life. Authorities took his dignity and, likely, his faith in justice.

We are no longer right just because we are the United States. The country we have become is no longer the country we once were.

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