Tuesday, September 19, 2006

There's an interesting story here , but the part that I'd like to quote from is on the second page, here.

A Canadian citizen, kept in a dungeon for ten months in Syria. What did the Canadian authorities have to say about this event?

Cavalluzzo said the Canadian agents apparently operated without proper training. "The best one can say is that it was sheer incompetence. They did not appreciate the fact that the branding of someone as a 'target' or 'suspect' or 'Islamic extremist' to Americans in 2002 could lead to disastrous consequences."

After Arar was detained in New York, Canadian authorities apparently were unaware the Americans were preparing to send him to Syria, according to the commission finding.

The RCMP contact, Inspector Michel Cabana, "was under the impression that Mr. Arar would only be detained for a short time," O'Connor's report said. "In his view, Mr. Arar was being held in a country with many of the same values as Canada."

Sheer incompetence is a good way to look at it... the story says that Mr. Arar was detained despite having no legitimate ties to terrorism, past a few chats with people who were suspected Muslim extremists... but the Muslim community in Canada is small. In a small community, you expect to see people reaching out to make connections. Was Mr. Arar not supposed to say "hey, nice weather we've been having?" to someone in the Muslim community on the off chance that he'd be talking to an extremist?

At the same time, I wonder if they're being a little harsh.

I mean, who the hell would suspect that America - even after the devastating attacks on September 11th, 2001 - would ever send an innocent man to be tortured, and to be locked in a "coffin sized dungeon" for ten months?

I wouldn't have believed it was possible at all. If I'd been convinced it was possible, I'd have desperately wanted to believe that someone, somewhere along the line, would refuse to do something so terrible without really good, strong evidence that it was justified.

I guess I was naive.

I've been following the story since it broke -- being Canadian, it's local media for me. It took his wife months and months to even get the authorities to pay any attention to the case. (His wife, by the way, is an engineer, PhD, and former New Democratic Party candidate for the riding of Ottawa South, and apparently a bad person to have angry at you.)

It turns out that the last time the RCMP was in charge of intel-related activities (after the Air India bombing that was our last big terrorism scare), they screwed up big too.

Some of the highlights from the report, as published in the Toronto Star on Sept. 18, are:

--Inexperienced RCMP investigators wrongly provided Americans with inaccurate, unfair and overstated evidence about Arar's alleged terrorist leanings.

--No evidence Arar has committed any offence or is a threat to Canadian security.

--Canadian officials leaked inaccurate details about Arar to news media to damage his reputation and protect themselves.
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