Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On Concentration Camps, Torture, Secret Trials & Other Essentials of Fascist Rule

The core misconceptions in the 'war on terror'
By John Feffer
Jul 17, 2007

In September 2002, Maher Arar was passing through JFK airport in New York. He was expecting a simple transit. A Syrian-born Canadian citizen and wireless technology consultant, Arar was traveling home to Ottawa after a vacation with his family in Tunis. The stopover in New York was the best deal he could get with his frequent flyer miles. He had no inkling of what would happen next. He didn't know that he would spend the next 10 months being tortured in a secret jail.

At the airport immigration line, officials pulled Arar aside. They fingerprinted and photographed him. They didn't let him make any phone calls. They didn't let him contact a lawyer. Interrogated about his connections to another Syrian-born Canadian, a bewildered Arar did his best to answer the questions. The authorities were not satisfied. They transferred him to New York's Metropolitan Detention Center where he spent more than a week.

Then, based on evidence that they would not share with him, US immigration officials informed Arar that he would be deported to Syria. He objected that he was a Canadian citizen, that the United States couldn't just send him to another country, particularly not Syria, where they might well torture him. Heedless, officials loaded him onto a private plane and flew him to Jordan, where he was beaten before being driven across the border into Syria.

In Syria, Arar was imprisoned in a cell that was just large enough for him to stand. He was repeatedly tortured and forced to sign a false confession. Only as a result of outside pressure - by his wife, by human-rights organizations, by the Canadian consulate - was he finally released and returned home. Two years later, a Canadian commission of inquiry cleared Arar of all charges of terrorism. Yet the United States still bars him from visiting the country. An innocent man caught up in the machinery of fear created by the "global war on terror", Arar will bear the scars of his experience for the rest of his life. [1]

Arar's story illustrates the key problems with the George W Bush administration's approach to terrorism and how it has defied legal standards at all levels. In the United States, the administration suspended key civil liberties. It imprisoned over 5,000 foreign nationals, subjected 80,000 Arab and Muslim immigrants to fingerprinting and registration, sent 30,000 "national security letters "every year to US businesses demanding information about their customers, and justified the large-scale, warrantless wiretapping of citizens. [2] It denied the right of habeas corpus to both American and non-American detainees and plans to continue to restrict the legal rights of terrorism suspects by trying them in military tribunals rather than civilian courts. ...