kidnapping people for foreign torture chambers

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chris Shaw, feral metallurgist said...
Did you ever consider the utter idiocy of rendition flights? A whole fleet of aeroplanes burns tons of fuel carting poor patsies to and fro between "secret" prisons all over the world. Few or none of the prisoners ever end up being charged with anything. So we are asked to believe that this is the result of misguided or over-zealous intelligence agents in the "war on terror".
Isn't it far more likely that rendition flights are actually part of the narcotics highway? We know that those flights pass through almost every country uninspected and officially "non-existent".
Those of us who realise that the incarceration of Australia's David Hicks makes no sense, must look elsewhere for a plausible justification for the Guantanamo facility.
As a US owned "island" of lawlessness i.e. beyond the jurisdiction of US lawmakers, Guantanamo makes perfect sense if it is looked at as a major node in a CIA drug network. Small wonder the Administration twists and turns in it's efforts to hang on to it's hapless "terrorists", against world opinion. The facade must be preserved at all costs.
Keep on keepin' on Mike.
Love from Australia.

From the issue dated April 11, 2008
So Much for the Information Age

Today's college students have tuned out the world, and it's partly our fault


I teach a seminar called "Secrecy: Forbidden Knowledge." I recently asked my class of 16 freshmen and sophomores, many of whom had graduated in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes and had dazzling SAT scores, how many had heard the word "rendition."

Not one hand went up.

This is after four years of the word appearing on the front pages of the nation's newspapers, on network and cable news, and online. This is after years of highly publicized lawsuits, Congressional inquiries, and international controversy and condemnation. This is after the release of a Hollywood film of that title, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, and Reese Witherspoon.

I was dumbstruck. Finally one hand went up, and the student sheepishly asked if rendition had anything to do with a version of a movie or a play.

I nodded charitably, then attempted to define the word in its more public context. I described specific accounts of U.S. abductions of foreign citizens, of the likely treatment accorded such prisoners when placed in the hands of countries like Syria and Egypt, of the months and years of detention. I spoke of the lack of formal charges, of some prisoners' eventual release and how their subsequent lawsuits against the U.S. government were stymied in the name of national security and secrecy.

The students were visibly disturbed. They expressed astonishment, then revulsion. They asked how such practices could go on.

I told them to look around the room at one another's faces; they were seated next to the answer. I suggested that they were, in part, the reason that rendition, waterboarding, Guantánamo detention, warrantless searches and intercepts, and a host of other such practices have not been more roundly discredited. I admit it was harsh.

That instance was no aberration. In recent years I have administered a dumbed-down quiz on current events and history early in each semester to get a sense of what my students know and don't know. Initially I worried that its simplicity would insult them, but my fears were unfounded. The results have been, well, horrifying.
I write this testimony from my grave -- Abu Omar's story in his words -- Ghost Plane
November 6, 2003
They Put a Bag Over My Head & Flew Me To Syria for Torture and Interrogation
This is What They Did to Me

I am here today to tell the people of Canada what has happened to me.
There have been many allegations made about me in the media, all of them by people who refuse to be named or come forward. So before I tell you who I am and what happened to me, I will tell you who I am not.
I am not a terrorist. I am not a member of al-Qaida and I do not know any one who belongs to this group. All I know about al-Qaida is what I have seen in the media.
I have never been to Afghanistan. I have never been anywhere near Afghanistan and I do not have any desire to ever go to Afghanistan. Now, let me tell you who I am.
I am a Syrian-born Canadian. I moved here with my parents when I was 17 years old. I went to university and studied hard, and eventually obtained a Masters degree in telecommunications.
I met my wife, Monia at McGill University. We fell in love and eventually married in 1994. I knew then that she was special, but I had no idea how special she would turn out to be.
If it were not for her, I believe I would still be in prison.
We had our first child, a daughter named Bar'a, in February 1997. She is six years old now. In December 1997, we moved to Ottawa from Montreal.
I took a job with a high-tech firm, called The MathWorks, in Boston in 1999, and my job involved a lot of travel within the U.S.
Then in 2001 I decided to come back to Ottawa to start my own consulting company. We had our second child, Houd, in February 2002. He is 20 months old now.
So this is who I am. I am a father and a husband. I am a telecommunications engineer and entrepreneur. I have never had trouble with the police and have always been a good citizen.
So I still cannot believe what has happened to me, and how my life and career have been destroyed.
In September 2002, I was with my wife and children, and her family, vacationing in Tunis.
I got an e-mail from the MathWorks saying that they might need me soon to assess a potential consulting work for one of their customers.
I said goodbye to my wife and family, and headed back home to prepare for work.
I was using my air-miles to travel, and the best flight I could get went from Tunis, to Zurich, to New York, to Montreal.
My flight arrived in New York at 2 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2002. I had a few hours to wait until my connecting flight to Montreal.
This is when my nightmare began. I was pulled aside at immigration and taken to another area.
Two hours later some officials came and told me this was regular procedure -- they took my fingerprints and photographs.
Then some police came and searched my bags and copied my Canadian passport. I was getting worried, and I asked what was going on, and they would not answer.
I asked to make a phone call, and they would not let me.
Then a team of people came and told me they wanted to ask me some questions. One man was from the FBI, and another was from the New York Police Department.
I was scared and did not know what was going on.
I told them I wanted a lawyer. They told me I had no right to a lawyer, because I was not an American citizen.
They asked me where I worked and how much money I made. They swore at me, and insulted me. It was very humiliating.
They wanted me to answer every question quickly.
They were consulting a report while they were questioning me, and the information they had was so private -- I thought this must be from Canada. I told them everything I knew.
They asked me about my travel in the United States. I told them about my work permits, and my business there.
They asked about information on my computer and whether I was willing to share it. I welcomed the idea, but I don't know if they did. They asked me about different people, some I know, and most I do not.
They asked me about Abdullah Almalki, and I told them I worked with his brother at high-tech firms in Ottawa, and that the Almalki family had come from Syria about the same time as mine. I told them I did not know Abdullah well, but had seen him a few times and I described the times I could remember.
I told them I had a casual relationship with him.
They were so rude with me, yelling at me that I had a selective memory. Then they pulled out a copy of my rental lease from 1997. I could not believe they had this.
I was completely shocked. They pointed out that Abdullah had signed the lease as a witness. I had completely forgotten that he had signed it for me -- when we moved to Ottawa in 1997, we needed someone to witness our lease, and I phoned Abdullah's brother, and he could not come, so he sent Abdullah.
But they thought I was hiding this. I told them the truth. I had nothing to hide. I had never had problems in the United States before, and I could not believe what was happening to me.
This interrogation continued until midnight. I was very, very worried, and asked for a lawyer again and again.
They just ignored me. Then they put me in chains, on my wrists and ankles, and took me in a van to a place where many people were being held -- another building by the airport. They would not tell me what was happening.
At one in the morning they put me in a room with metal benches in it. I could not sleep. I was very, very scared and disoriented. The next morning they started questioning me again.
They asked me about what I think about bin Laden, Palestine, Iraq. They also asked me about the mosques I pray in, my bank accounts, my e-mail addresses, my relatives, about everything.
This continued on and off for eight hours.
Then a man from the INS came in and told me they wanted me to volunteer to go to Syria. I said no way.
I said I wanted to go home to Canada or sent back to Switzerland. He said to me 'you are a special interest.' They asked me to sign a form. They would not let me read it, but I just signed it. I was exhausted and confused and disoriented.
I had not slept or eaten since I was in the plane. At about six in the evening they brought me some cold McDonalds meal to eat.
This was the first food I had eaten since the last meal I had on the plane. At about eight o'clock they put all the shackles and chains back on, and put me in a van, and drove me to a prison.
I later learned this was the Metropolitan Detention Centre. They would not tell me what was happening, or where I was going.
They strip searched me. It was humiliating. They put me in an orange suit, and took me to a doctor, where they made me sign forms, and gave me a vaccination.
I asked what it was, and they would not tell me. My arm was red for almost two weeks from that.
They took me to a cell. I had never seen a prison before in my life, and I was terrified. I asked again for a phone call and a lawyer. They just ignored me.
They treated me differently than the other prisoners. They would not give me a toothbrush or toothpaste, or reading material. I did get a copy of the Koran about two days later.
After five days, they let me make a phone call. I called Monia's mother, who was here in Ottawa, and told her I was scared they might send me to Syria, and asked her to help find me a lawyer. They would only let me talk for two minutes.
On the seventh or eighth day they brought me a document, saying they had decided to deport me, and I had a choice of where to be deported. I wrote that I wanted to go to Canada. It asked if I had concerns about going to Canada. I wrote no, and signed it.
The Canadian consul came on Oct. 4, and I told her I was scared of being deported to Syria. She told me that would not happen. She told me that a lawyer was being arranged. I was very upset, and scared. I could barely talk.
The next day, a lawyer came. She told me not to sign any document unless she was present. We could only talk for 30 minutes. She said she would try to help me. That was a Saturday.
On Sunday night at about 9 p.m., the guards came to my cell and told me my lawyer was there to see me. I thought it was a strange time, and they took me into a room with seven or eight people in it.
I asked where my lawyer was. They told me he had refused to come and started questioning me again.
They said they wanted to know why I did not want to go back to Syria. I told them I would be tortured there. I told them I had not done my military service; I am a Sunni Muslim; my mother's cousin had been accused of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and was put in prison for nine years.
They asked me to sign a document and I refused. I told them they could not send me to Syria - I would be tortured.
I asked again for a lawyer. At three in the morning they took me back to my cell. At three in the morning on Tuesday, Oct. 8, a prison guard woke me up and told me I was leaving.
They took me to another room and stripped and searched me again. Then they again chained and shackled me.
Then two officials took me inside a room and read me what they said was a decision by the INS director. They told me that based on classified information that they could not reveal to me, I would be deported to Syria.
I said again that I would be tortured there. Then they read part of the document where it explained that INS was not the body that deals with Geneva Convention regarding torture.
Then they took me outside into a car and drove me to an airport in New Jersey. Then they put me on a small private jet. I was the only person on the plane with them. I was still chained and shackled. We flew first to Washington.
A new team of people got on the plane and the others left. I overheard them talking on the phone, saying that Syria was refusing to take me directly, but Jordan would take me.
Then we flew to Portland, to Rome, and then to Amman, Jordan. All the time I was on the plane I was thinking how to avoid being tortured. I was very scared.
We landed in Amman at three in the morning local time on Oct. 9. They took me out of plane and there were six or seven Jordanian men waiting for us.
They blindfolded and chained me, and put me in a van. They made me bend my head down in the back seat. Then, these men started beating me. Every time I tried to talk they beat me.
For the first few minutes it was very intense.
Thirty minutes later, we arrived at a building where they took off my blindfold and asked routine questions, before taking me to a cell. It was around 4:30 in the morning on Oct. 9.
Later that day, they took my fingerprints, and blindfolded me and put me in a van. I asked where I was going, and they told me I was going back to Montreal.
About 45 minutes later, I was put into a different car. These men started beating me again. They made me keep my head down, and it was very uncomfortable, but every time I moved, they beat me again. Over an hour later, we arrived at what I think was the border with Syria.
I was put in another car and we drove for another three hours.
I was taken into a building, where some guards went through my bags and took some chocolates I bought in Zurich. I asked one of the people where I was and he told me I was in the Palestine branch of the Syrian military intelligence. It was now about six in the evening on Oct. 9.
Three men came and took me into a room. I was very, very scared. They put me on a chair, and one of the men started asking me questions. I later learned this man was a colonel.
He asked me about my brothers, and why we had left Syria. I answered all the questions. If I did not answer quickly enough, he would point to a metal chair in the corner and ask 'Do you want me to use this?' I did not know then what that chair was for. I learned later it was used to torture people.
I asked him what he wanted to hear. I was terrified, and I did not want to be tortured. I would say anything to avoid torture. This lasted for four hours. There was no violence, only threats this day.
At about one in the morning, the guards came to take me to my cell downstairs.
We went into the basement, and they opened a door, and I looked in. I could not believe what I saw. I asked how long I would be kept in this place. He did not answer, but put me in and closed the door. It was like a grave. It had no light.
It was three feet wide. It was six feet deep. It was seven feet high. It had a metal door, with a small opening in the door, which did not let in light because there was a piece of metal on the outside for sliding things into the cell.
There was a small opening in the ceiling, about one foot by two feet with iron bars. Over that was another ceiling, so only a little light came through this.
There were cats and rats up there, and from time to time the cats peed through the opening into the cell. There were two blankets, two dishes and two bottles. One bottle was for water and the other one was used for urinating during the night. Nothing else. No light.
I spent 10 months, and 10 days inside that grave.
The next day I was taken upstairs again. The beating started that day and was very intense for a week, and then less intense for another week. That second and the third days were the worst.
I could hear other prisoners being tortured, and screaming and screaming. Interrogations are carried out in different rooms.
One tactic they use is to question prisoners for two hours, and then put them in a waiting room, so they can hear the others screaming, and then bring them back to continue the interrogation.
The cable is a black electrical cable, about two inches thick. They hit me with it everywhere on my body.
They mostly aimed for my palms, but sometimes missed and hit my wrists -- they were sore and red for three weeks. They also struck me on my hips, and lower back. Interrogators constantly threatened me with the metal chair, tire and electric shocks.
The tire is used to restrain prisoners while they torture them with beating on the sole of their feet. I guess I was lucky, because they put me in the tire, but only as a threat.
I was not beaten while in tire. They used the cable on the second and third day, and after that mostly beat me with their hands, hitting me in the stomach and on the back of my neck, and slapping me on the face.
Where they hit me with the cables, my skin turned blue for two or three weeks, but there was no bleeding. At the end of the day, they told me tomorrow would be worse. So I could not sleep.
Then on the third day, the interrogation lasted about 18 hours. They beat me from time to time and make me wait in the waiting room for one to two hours before resuming the interrogation.
While in the waiting room I heard a lot of people screaming. They wanted me to say I went to Afghanistan. This was a surprise to me.
They had not asked about this in the United States. They kept beating me so I had to falsely confess and told them I did go to Afghanistan. I was ready to confess to anything if it would stop the torture. They wanted me to say I went to a training camp.
I was so scared I urinated on myself twice. The beating was less severe each of the following days.
At the end of each day, they would always say, 'Tomorrow will be harder for you. ' So each night, I could not sleep. I did not sleep for the first four days, and slept no more than two hours a day for about two months. Most of time, I was not taken back to my cell, but to the waiting room where I could hear all the prisoners being tortured and screaming.
One time, I heard them banging a man's head repeatedly on a desk really hard. Around Oct. 17, the beatings subsided. Their next tactic was to take me in a room, blindfolded, and people would talk about me.
I could hear them saying, 'He knows lots of people who are terrorists;' 'We will get their numbers;' 'He is a liar;' 'He has been out of the country for long.' Then they would say, 'Let's be frank, let's be friends, tell us the truth,' and come around the desk, and slap me on the face. They played lots of mind games.
The interrogation and beating ended three days before I had my first consular visit, on Oct. 23.
I was taken from my cell and my beard was shaved. I was taken to another building, and there was the colonel in the hallway with some other men and they all seemed very nervous and agitated.
I did not know what was happening and they would not tell me. They never say what is happening. You never know what will happen next.
I was told not to tell anything about the beating, then I was taken into a room for a 10-minute meeting with the consul. The colonel was there, and three other Syrian officials including an interpreter.
I cried a lot at that meeting. I could not say anything about the torture. I thought if I did, I would not get any more visits, or I might be beaten again.
After that visit, about a month after I arrived, they called me up to sign and place my thumb print on a document about seven pages long.
They would not let me read it, but I had to put my thumb print and signature on the bottom of each page. It was handwritten.
Another document was about three pages long, with questions: Who are your friends? How long have you been out of the country?
Last question was empty lines. They answered the questions with their own handwriting except for the last one where I was forced to write that I had been to Afghanistan.
The consular visits were my lifeline, but I also found them very frustrating.
There were seven consular visits, and one visit from members of Parliament. After the visits, I would bang my head and my fist on the wall in frustration. I needed the visits, but I could not say anything there.
I got new clothes after the Dec. 10 consular visit. Until then, I had been wearing the same clothes since being on the jet from the United States.
On three different occasions in December, I had a very hard time. Memories crowded my mind and I thought I was going to lose control, and I just screamed and screamed. I could not breathe well after, and felt very dizzy.
I was not exposed to sunlight for six months. The only times I left the grave was for interrogation, and for the visits.
Daily life in that place was hell. When I was detained in New York I weighed about 180 pounds. I think I lost about 40 pounds while I was at the Palestine Branch.
On Aug. 19, I was taken upstairs to see the investigator and I was given a paper and asked to write what he dictated.
If I protested, he kicked me. I was forced to write that I went to a training camp in Afghanistan. They made me sign and put my thumbprint on the last page.
The same day I was transferred to a different place, which I learnt later was the Investigation Branch.
I was placed there in a 12 feet by 20 feet collective cell. We were about 50 people in that place. The next day, I was taken to the Sednaya prison. I was very lucky that I was not tortured when I arrived there. All the other prisoners were tortured when they arrived.
Sednaya prison was like heaven for me. I could move around, and talk with other prisoners. I could buy food to eat and I gained a lot of weight there. I was only beaten once there.
On around Sept. 19 or 20, I heard the other prisoners saying that another Canadian had arrived there.
I looked up, and saw a man, but I did not recognize him. His head was shaved, and he was very, very thin and pale. He was very weak. When I looked closer, I recognized him.
It was Abdullah Almalki. He told me he had also been at the Palestine Branch, and that he had also been in a grave like I had been -- except he had been in it longer.
He told me he had been severely tortured -- with the tire, and the cable. He was also hanged upside down. He was tortured much worse than me. He had also been tortured when he was brought to Sednaya, so that was only two weeks before.
I do not know why they have Abdullah there. What I can say for sure is that no human deserves to be treated the way he was, and I hope that Canada does all they can to help him.
On Sept. 28, I was taken out and blindfolded and put in what felt like a bus and taken back to the Palestine Branch.
They would not tell me what was happening, and I was scared I was going back to the grave. Instead, I was put in one of the waiting rooms where they torture people. I could hear the prisoners being tortured, and screaming, again.
The same day I was called in to an office to answer more questions, about what I would say if I came back to Canada. They did not tell me I would be released.
I was put back in the waiting room, and I was kept there for one week, listening to all the prisoners screaming.
It was awful. On Sunday, Oct. 5, I was taken out and into a car and driven to a court. I was put in a room with a prosecutor. I asked for a lawyer and he said I did not need one.
I asked what was going on and he read from my confession. I tried to argue I was beaten and did not go to Afghanistan, but he did not listen.
He did not tell me what I was charged with, but told me to stamp my fingerprint and sign on a document he would not let me see. Then he said I would be released.
Then I was taken back to the Palestine Branch where I met the head of the Syrian Military Intelligence and officials from the Canadian Embassy. And then I was released.
I want to conclude by thanking all of the people who worked for my release, especially my wife Monia, and human rights groups, and all the people who wrote letters, and all the members of parliament who stood up for justice.
Of course, I thank all of the journalists for covering my story.
The past year has been a nightmare, and I have spent the past few weeks at home trying to learn how to live with what happened to me.
I know that the only way I will ever be able to move on in my life and have a future is if I can find out why this happened to me.
I want to know why this happened to me. I believe the only way I can ever know why this happened is to have all the truth come out in a public inquiry.
My priority right now is to clear my name, get to the bottom of the case and make sure this does not happen to any other Canadian citizens in the future.
I believe the best way to go about achieving this goal is to put pressure on the government to call for a public inquiry.
What is at stake here is the future of our country, the interests of Canadian citizens, and most importantly Canada's international reputation for being a leader in human rights where citizens from different ethnic groups are treated no different than other Canadians.



Canada's New "Homeland Department" of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (PSEP)
Complicit in Deportation of Maher Arar
by Michel Chossudovsky   23 January 2004
The URL of this article is:
Friday, Nov. 14, 2003. Page XII
Global Eye -- The Inhuman Stain
By Chris Floyd

There is a horrible scandal eating away the heart of the American body politic. Among the many corrupted currents loosed upon the nation by the Bush Regime, this scandal is perhaps the worst, for it abets all the others and breeds new pestilence, new perversions at every turn.
Last week, Maher Arar of Canada detailed his ordeal at the hands of Attorney General John Ashcroft's security "organs." Returning from a family holiday in Tunis, the Syrian-born Arar -- 16 years a Canadian citizen -- was seized at a New York airport. Jailed and interrogated without charges, on unspecified allegations of unspecified connections to unspecified terrorist groups, he was then deported, without a hearing, to Syria. When he told the Homeland Chekists he would be tortured there -- his family was marked down as dissidents by Syria's Baathist regime -- the Chekists replied that their organ "was not the body that deals with the Geneva Conventions regarding torture." They shackled him and flew him to the America-friendly regime in Jordan; from there he was bundled across the border to Damascus, The Washington Post reports.
But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.
For 10 months, Arar was held in a dank cell in Syria: a "grave," he called it, a closet-sized unlighted hole filled with cat and rat piss falling down from the grating overhead. He was beaten, often with electrical cable, for weeks on end, kept awake for days, made to witness and hear even more exquisite tortures applied to other prisoners. He was forced to sign false confessions. Ashcroft's Baathist comrades had a preset storyline they wanted filled in: that Arar had gone to Afghanistan, attended terrorist training camps, was plotting mayhem -- the usual template. Arar, who had spent years working as a computer consultant for a Boston-based high-tech firm, had done none of those things. Yet he was whipped, broken and tortured into submission.
But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.
Arar's case is not extraordinary. In the past two years, the Bushist organs have "rendered" thousands of detainees, without charges, hearings or the need to produce any evidence whatsoever, into the hands of regimes which the U.S. government itself denounces for the widespread use of torture. Apparatchiks of the organs make no secret of the practice -- or of their knowledge that the "rendered" will indeed be beaten, burned, drugged, raped, even killed. "I do it with my eyes open," one renderer told The Washington Post. Detainees -- including lifelong American residents -- have been snatched from homes, businesses, schools, from streets and airports, and sent to torture pits like Syria, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan.
But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.
Of course, the American organs needn't rely exclusively on foreigners for torture anymore. Under the enlightened leadership of Ashcroft, Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other upstanding Christian statesmen, America has now established its own centers for what the organs call "operational flexibility." These include bases in Afghanistan and Diego Garcia, the Indian Ocean island that was forcibly depopulated in the 1960s to make way for a U.S. military installation. Here, the CIA runs secret interrogation units that are even more restricted than the American concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. Detainees -- again, held without charges or evidentiary requirements -- are "softened up" by beatings at the hands of military police and Special Forces troops before being subjected to "stress and duress" techniques: sleep deprivation (officially condemned as torture by the U.S. government), physical and psychological disorientation, withholding of medical treatment, etc. When beatings and "duress" don't work, detainees are then "packaged" -- hooded, gagged, bound to stretchers with duct tape -- and "rendered" into less dainty hands elsewhere, The Washington Post reports.
But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.
Not content with capture and torture, the organs have been given presidential authority to carry out raids and kill "suspected terrorists" (including Americans) on their own volition -- without charges, oversight or evidence -- anywhere in the world, including on American soil. What's more, through a series of executive orders, Bush has asserted the right to designate anyone he pleases "an enemy combatant" and have them "rendered" into indefinite detention or simply killed at his order -- again, without charges, evidence, oversight or appeal. The life of every American citizen -- every person on Earth -- is now at the mercy of his arbitrary whim.
But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.
All of the above facts -- each of them manifest violations of international law and/or the U.S. Constitution -- have been cheerfully attested to, for years now, by the organs' own apparatchiks, quoted in numerous high-profile, mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Economist, Newsweek and others. The stories appear -- then they disappear. There is no reaction. No outcry in Congress or the courts -- the supposed guardians of the people's rights -- beyond a few wan calls for more formality in the concentration camp processing or judicial "warrants" for torture. And among the great mass of "the people" itself, there is -- nothing. Silence. Inattention. Indifference. Acquiescence. State terrorism -- lawless seizure, filthy torture, official murder -- is simply accepted, a part of "normal life," as in Nazi Germany or Stalin's empire, where "decent people" with "nothing to hide" approved and applauded the work of the "organs" in "defending national security."
This is the scandal, this is the nation's festering shame. This acquiescence to state terror will breed -- and attract -- a thousand evils for every one it supposedly prevents.


Maher Arar: This is What They Did to Me
CounterPunch, Nov. 6, 2003

Deported Terror Suspect Details Torture in Syria
Washington Post, Nov. 4, 2003

U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations
Washington Post, Dec. 26, 2002

The American Way of Torture
Village Voice, Jan. 31, 2003

Ends, Means and Barbarity
The Economist, Jan. 9, 2003

The New Yorker, Dec. 16, 2002

America's Dirty Torture Secret
The Guardian, Sept. 10, 2003,12271,1038894,00.html

A U.S. License to Kill
Village Voice, Feb. 21, 2003

Critics Condemn U.S. Torture by Proxy
Toronto Star, Nov. 8, 2003

Do Hamdi and Padilla Need Company? Ashcroft's Plan for Internment Camps, Aug. 21, 2002

In Torture We Trust
The Nation, March 13, 2003

CIA Takes on Major Military Role
Boston Globe, Jan. 20, 2002

Special Ops Get OK to Initiate Its Own Missions
Washington Times, Jan. 8, 2003 (fee required)

CIA Weighs 'Targeted Killing' Missions
Washington Post, Oct. 27, 2001

Bush Has Widened Authority of CIA to Kill Terrorists
New York Times, Dec. 15, 2002

America's Shadow Warriors
Der Spiegel, March 3, 2003,1518,238647,00.html

America's Secret Prisoners
Newsweek, June 18, 2003

General Ashcroft's Detention Camps
Village Voice, Sept. 10, 2002

U.S. Behind Secret Transfer of Terror Suspects
Washington Post, March 10, 2002

US Again Uses Enemy Combatant Label to Deny Basic Rights
Human Rights Watch, June 23, 2003

Canadian inquiry may reveal CIA secrets on outsourcing torture
The Invisible Men
by Kareem Fahim
March 30th, 2004 11:30 AM

While the nation focused on Richard Clarke's allegations last week, CIA director George Tenet let slip other revelations in his testimony to the 9-11 Commission, admissions that sharpen the contours of the shadowy intelligence practice called "extraordinary rendition."
The policy, codified in the late 1980s to allow U.S. law enforcement to apprehend wanted men in lawless states like Lebanon during its civil war, has emerged in recent years as one of America's key counterterrorism tools, and has now expanded in scope to include the transfer of terrorism suspects by U.S. intelligence agents to foreign countries for interrogation—and, say some insiders, torture prohibited inside this nation's borders.
Tenet testified that in an unspecified period before September 11, the U.S. had undertaken over 70 such renditions, adding that the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA had "racked up many successes, including the rendition of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001." Tenet's testimony marked a rare occasion when the CIA, which doesn't comment publicly on the practice, provided any details about rendition.
As the 9-11 Commission continues its focus on why more wasn't done to prevent the terror attacks, a public inquiry set to begin in the next few weeks in Canada may reveal long-hidden secrets about the abuses of America's war on terror. Headed by a judge, it will investigate why Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was flying home to Montreal in 2002, was detained by the U.S. authorities at JFK Airport, and then escorted through Jordan to Syria, where he said he was tortured and kept in a grave-like cell for 10 months. Arar was finally cleared by a Syrian court and sent back to Canada, where he hasn't been charged with any crime.
Arar's advocates say his case calls into question not only what kind of men the U.S. is apprehending, but where these detainees are being sent, and with what consequences. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Arar in the U.S., filed a lawsuit on his behalf in late January that they have said is the first to challenge the legality of rendition.
"[F]ederal officials removed Mr. Arar to Syria under the Government's 'extraordinary renditions' program precisely because Syria could use methods of interrogation to obtain information from Mr. Arar that would not be legally or morally acceptable in this country or in other democracies," the group charged.
What once resembled "kidnapping" re-entered the public lexicon in 1989 as "rendition." Then CIA director William H. Webster told The Washington Post the new law would allow the agency to arrest suspects in the downing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. As Webster explained it, "You have a different set of circumstances in a country like Lebanon which has no capacity to provide law enforcement or assistance." In subsequent years, high-profile suspects "rendered" to the U.S. have included Manuel Noriega, hijacker Fawaz Yunis, and Humberto Alvarez-Machain, a Mexican doctor accused of helping torture and murder a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Alvarez-Machain was later acquitted.
Later it emerged that there had been other secretive operations, with less transparent conclusions.
"Plenty of renditions were not to the U.S. We just facilitated the renditions," said one former CIA official about terrorism suspects captured by the agency in the 1990s. "We'd arrest them and send them to Jordan or Egypt, and they'd disappear." The men were not brought to the U.S., said the former official, "because the evidence against them would never hold up in court."
Egyptian and U.S. intelligence officials cooperated throughout the 1990s to seize suspected terrorists, according to an article published soon after 9-11 in The Boston Globe. Reporter Anthony Shadid described one such operation in 1995, when U.S. agents seized a wanted Egyptian from Croatia, interrogated him on a ship in the Adriatic, then sent him off to Egypt, where his wife believes he was executed. As one official told Shadid, "These are not nice people. We're pretty much sure what they've done. Nobody's picking Joe Blow off the street here."
George Tenet repeated the conclusion to the 9-11 Commission. "We were taking terrorists off the street," he said, "but the threat level persisted."
The practice of rendition is thought to have increased dramatically since 9-11, and in addition to suspects being handed over to foreign countries, detainees have also been sent to U.S. bases overseas, like Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. Tenet said rendition remains one of the principal strategies employed against the threat of international terrorism.
And he added that so-called "liaison partners"—foreign intelligence services—were essential to the CIA's effectiveness.
"Although liaison services are an essential part of an aggressive posture against terrorism," Tenet said, "their ability to share is sometimes hindered by their countries' own legal protections and open societies. These limitations include restrictions on rendering terrorists to countries that permit capital punishment."
The case of Maher Arar suggests no such restrictions encumber U.S. efforts. In September 2002, Arar was returning to Canada from Tunisia when he was detained by U.S. immigration authorities while in transit at JFK. He was held in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for 12 days and interrogated, he said, by FBI and immigration officials. Then he was put on a small plane, and after a stopover in Washington, flown to Amman, Jordan, where Arar was handed over to Jordanian authorities. He said the Jordanians beat him for hours, and then took him to Syria. His Syrian captors tortured him, beating him on the palms, hips, and lower back with electric cables.
After Arar's release, which caused a storm in Canada but barely raised a whisper in the U.S., Syrian authorities said they had no interest in him, and had interrogated him in a show of goodwill towards the U.S. Arar believed his interrogation was largely related to a casual acquaintance, a terrorism suspect who has also been released from jail in Syria.
In November, almost two months after Arar returned to Canada, U.S. officials claimed they had sent him to Syria after receiving assurances he wouldn't be tortured. Syria maintained that it hadn't tortured him.
"Obviously, it would be superb if the inquiry shed some light on U.S. practices," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International in Canada, which has been deeply involved in Arar's case. U.S. officials have said they acted on information supplied by Canadian authorities, but didn't cooperate with them during the operation. "We're interested to know what role, if any, Canadian input may have played in him being detained in the first place," Neve said.
Friends of Arar have said if not for the efforts and charisma of his wife, Monia Mazigh, who is now running for parliament in Canada, he might still be in jail, or worse.
"It shouldn't matter whether a person is guilty or not," Arar told the Voice. "A human being should be respected. They should not be sent for torture. The principle behind any free society is due process.
"What is really at stake," he continued, "is the message the U.S. government, which talks about democracy, is sending to third-world countries."
And American observers have an interest in what kind of intelligence causes authorities here to send suspects off to prisons in countries that permit the use of torture. "Who knows whether some of these people [we detained] were dissidents?" said the former CIA official. "Intelligence is imprecise. You can't go on a hunch and torture someone."



Outsourcing torture?
Rick Holmes / Byline
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Now that Jessica Lynch has had her week on primetime, I'm looking forward to the TV movie about Maher Arar. I only wish it could be directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who made a specialty of tales involving ordinary people swept up by international intrigue.
Some of the movie could be filmed in the Boston area. Arar was born in Syria and moved to Canada when he was 17, but he lived in Framingham for awhile with his wife and daughter in an upstairs apartment on the south side of town. He worked at MathWorks in Natick as an engineer before moving back to Canada to start his own consulting firm.
"This is who I am," Arar, 33, said early this month. "I am a father and a husband. I am a telecommunications engineer and entrepreneur. I have never had trouble with the police, and have always been a good citizen.
"So I still cannot believe what has happened to me, and how my life and career have been destroyed."
Arar's nightmare began Sept. 22, 2002, at JFK airport, where he was changing planes on a flight home from a family vacation in Tunisia. He was grabbed by immigration officers, questioned and locked up. He was held for more than a week without an arrest, without a hearing, and with one short visit with a lawyer.
Arar holds duel citizenship in Canada and Syria, and when U.S. officials said he'd be deported, he begged to be sent to Canada. His mother's cousin had been imprisoned in Syria, he said, and he knew they tortured their prisoners.
In the middle of the night, Arar was flown in shackles, first to Washington, where he was turned over to people he believes were with the CIA, then to Amman, Jordan. There, he was entrusted to the tender mercies of the Syrians.
The beatings began immediately, Arar says. For more than 10 months he was locked in a dark pit, listening to the screams of tortured prisoners.
"It was like a grave," he says. "It had no light. It was three feet wide. It was six feet deep."
The interrogations were constant. He was whipped with black electrical cables and threatened with harsher tortures. He was made to sign documents he could not read, including, apparently, a confession that he had traveled to Afghanistan and trained with al-Qaida.
Back in Canada, Arar's wife, friends and supporters kept up the pressure. Because of that - or maybe because the Syrians had given up on getting information from him - he was suddenly released last month, more than a year after his abduction. If it doesn't prove his innocence, the fact that he was never charged and is free today certainly indicates they couldn't make a case. Torture chamber confessions don't hold up in either U.S. or Canadian courts, at least not yet.
Canadians are still outraged, but their government has resisted calls for an investigation of how Canadian police contributed to Arar's nightmare. U.S. officials have been even less forthcoming. Off the record, they say "multiple intelligence sources" were suspicious of Arar.
Also off the record, officials told The Washington Post Arar's case fits the profile of a covert CIA "extraordinary rendition" - a new practice in which suspected terrorists are turned over to foreign intelligence services for interrogation. The practice, the Post says, has been authorized by a secret "finding" signed by President George W. Bush.
U.S. and Canadian officials say they only sent Arar to Syria after the Syrians promised he wouldn't be tortured. We don't torture people, the Syrians say.
Tell that to Human Rights Watch, which has documented Syrian torture chambers that match exactly Arar's description. Tell it to the State Department, which has cited Syria's human rights abuses for decades. Or tell it to President Bush, who has put Syria at the top of the waiting list for admission to the axis of evil.
In his much admired Nov. 6 speech on the need to champion democracy in the Middle East, Bush condemned the government of Syria for leaving its people "a legacy of torture, oppression, misery, and ruin."
We should be the champion of democracy in the world, and human rights can't be separated from democracy. But if Bush expects to be taken seriously on this issue, he'll have to address the contradictions in his own policies. Just months after Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf became Bush's new best friend, he won a new term in an election everyone knows was a fraud. To get a military foothold north of Afghanistan, Bush cozied up to Uzbekistan's longtime dictator, a Stalinist not much better than Saddam Hussein. And Bush still refuses to deal with Yasser Arafat, the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian Authority.
And if Bush wants to be taken seriously, he can't condemn Syrian torturers while at the same time his CIA outsources its interrogations to the same brutal thugs.
The Maher Arar story has had a tough time breaking into the newspapers, especially those south of the Canadian border, let alone TV. Maybe Al-Jazeera is interested.
Rick Holmes is opinion page editor for the MetroWest Daily News. E-mail him at
Deported Terror Suspect Details Torture in Syria
Canadian's Case Called Typical of CIA
By DeNeen L. Brown and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 5, 2003; Page A01

TORONTO, Nov. 4 -- A Canadian citizen who was detained last year at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as a suspected terrorist said Tuesday he was secretly deported to Syria and endured 10 months of torture in a Syrian prison.

Maher Arar, 33, who was released last month, said at a news conference in Ottawa that he pleaded with U.S. authorities to let him continue on to Canada, where he has lived for 15 years and has a family. But instead, he was flown under U.S. guard to Jordan and handed over to Syria, where he was born. Arar denied any connection to terrorism and said he would fight to clear his name.
U.S. officials said Tuesday that Arar was deported because he had been put on a terrorist watch list after information from "multiple international intelligence agencies" linked him to terrorist groups.
Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the Arar case fits the profile of a covert CIA "extraordinary rendition" -- the practice of turning over low-level, suspected terrorists to foreign intelligence services, some of which are known to torture prisoners.
Arar's case has brought repeated apologies from the Canadian government, which says it is investigating what information the Royal Canadian Mounted Police gave to U.S. authorities. Canada's foreign minister, Bill Graham, also said he would question the Syrian ambassador about Arar's statements about torture. In an interview on CBC Radio, Imad Moustafa, the Syrian chargé d'affaires in Washington, denied that Arar had been tortured.
Arar said U.S. officials apparently based the terrorism accusation on his connection to Abdullah Almalki, another Syrian-born Canadian. Almalki is being detained by Syrian authorities, although no charges against him have been reported. Arar said he knew Almalki only casually before his detention but encountered him at the Syrian prison where both were tortured.
Arar, whose case has become a cause celebre in Canada, demanded a public inquiry. "I am not a terrorist," he said. "I am not a member of al Qaeda. I have never been to Afghanistan."
He said he was flying home to Montreal via New York on Sept. 26, 2002, from a family visit to Tunisia.
"This is when my nightmare began," he said. "I was pulled aside by immigration and taken [away]. The police came and searched my bags. I asked to make a phone call and they would not let me." He said an FBI agent and a New York City police officer questioned him. "I was so scared," he said. "They told me I had no right to a lawyer because I was not an American citizen."
Arar said he was shackled, placed on a small jet and flown to Washington, where "a new team of people got on the plane" and took him to Amman, the capital of Jordan. Arar said U.S. officials handed him over to Jordanian authorities, who "blindfolded and chained me and put me in a van. . . . They made me bend my head down in the back seat. Then these men started beating me. Every time I tried to talk, they beat me."
Hours later, he said, he was taken to Syria and there he was forced to write that he had been to a training camp in Afghanistan. "They kept beating me, and I had to falsely confess," he said. "I was willing to confess to anything to stop the torture."
Arar said his prison cell "was like a grave, exactly like a grave. It had no light, it was three feet wide, it was six feet deep, it was seven feet high. . . . It had a metal door. There was a small opening in the ceiling. There were cats and rats up there, and from time to time, the cats peed through the opening into the cell."
Steven Watt, a human rights fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in Washington, said Arar's case raised questions about U.S. counterterrorism measures. "Here we have the United States involved in the removal of somebody to a country where it knows persons in custody of security agents are tortured," Watt said. "The U.S. was possibly benefiting from the fruits of that torture. I ask the question: Why wasn't he removed to Canada?"
A senior U.S. intelligence official discussed the case in terms of the secret rendition policy. There have been "a lot of rendition activities" since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the official said. "We are doing a number of them, and they have been very productive."
Renditions are a legitimate option for dealing with suspected terrorists, intelligence officials argue. The U.S. government officially rejects the assertion that it knowingly sends suspects abroad to be tortured, but officials admit they sometimes do that. "The temptation is to have these folks in other hands because they have different standards," one official said. "Someone might be able to get information we can't from detainees," said another.
Syria, where use of torture during imprisonment has been documented by the State Department, maintains a secret but growing intelligence relationship with the CIA, according to intelligence experts.
"The Syrian government has provided some very useful assistance on al Qaeda in the past," said Cofer Black, former director of counterterrorism at the CIA who is now the counterterrorism coordinator at the State Department.
One senior intelligence official said Tuesday that Arar is still believed to have connections to al Qaeda. The Justice Department did not have enough evidence to detain him when he landed in the United States, the official said, and "the CIA doesn't keep people in this country."
With those limitations, and with a secret presidential "finding" authorizing the CIA to place suspects in foreign hands without due process, Arar may have been one of the people whisked overseas by the CIA.
In the early 1990s, renditions were exclusively law enforcement operations in which suspects were snatched by covert CIA or FBI teams and brought to the United States for trial or questioning. But CIA teams, working with foreign intelligence services, now capture suspected terrorists in one country and render them to another, often after U.S. interrogators have tried to gain information from them.
Renditions are considered a covert action. Congress, which oversees the CIA, knows of only the broad authority to carry out renditions but is not informed about individual cases, according to intelligence officials.Priest reported from Washington. Staff writers John Mintz and Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.



    CIA Renditions of Terror Suspects Are 'Out of Control:' Report
    Agence France-Presse
    Sunday 06 February 2005

    The Central Intelligence Agency's 'rendition' of suspected terrorists has spiralled 'out of control' according to a former FBI agent, cited in a report which examined how CIA detainees are spirited to states suspected of using torture.
    Michael Scheuer a former CIA counterterrorism agent told The New Yorker magazine "all we've done is create a nightmare," with regard to the top secret practice of renditions.
    In an article titled 'Outsourcing Torture' due to hit newsstands this week, the magazine claims suspects, sometimes picked up by the CIA, are often flown to Egypt , Morocco, Syria and Jordan , "each of which is known to use torture in interrogations."
    The report said suspects are given few, if any, legal protections.
    Despite US laws that ban America from expelling or extraditing individuals to countries where torture occurs, Scott Horton -- an expert on international law who has examined CIA renditions -- estimates that 150 people have been picked up in the CIA dragnet since 2001.
    The New Yorker report said that suspects in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East "have been abducted by hooded or masked American agents" and then sometimes forced onto a white Gulfstream V jet.
    The jet -- marked on its tail by the code N379P which has recently been changed to N8068V -- "has been registered to a series of dummy American corporations ... (and) has clearance to land at US military bases," it said.
    Maher Arar was arrested in 2002 by US officials at John F. Kennedy airport and then claims he was put on a "executive jet" which flew him to Amman, Jordan , before he was driven to Syria .
     Arar says he was tortured in Syria ?and told his interrogators anything they wanted due to the beatings He was released without charge in 2003 and is suing the US government for his mistreatment.
    He claims that the crew onboard the Gulfstream identified themselves as "the Special Removal Unit" during radio communications on his flight to Jordan .
     "The most common destinations for rendered suspects are Egypt , Morocco, Syria ?and Jordan , all of which have been cited for human rights violations by the (US) State Department," the report said.
    By holding detainees without counsel or charges of wrongdoing, the administration of US President George W. Bush "has jeopardized its chances of convicting hundreds of suspected terrorists, or even of using them as witnesses in almost any court in the world," the report said.
    The article cited Dan Coleman, an ex Federal Bureau of Investigation counterterrorism expert who retired in July 2003.
    Coleman told The New Yorker that torture "has become bureaucratized," by the Bush administration, and that the practice of renditions is "out of control."
    Scheuer said there had been a legal process underlying early renditions, but as more suspects were rounded up following the September 11, 2001, attacks, "all we've done is create a nightmare."
    Abductees are effectively classified as "illegal enemy combatants," by the US government, which is how it also classifies the estimated 550 'war on terror' detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba .
     Such a classifiction, the US argues, exempts such detainees from the protections of the Geneva Conventions, part of which govern the treatment of prisoners.
    The report also cited the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan , Craig Murray, as saying Washington ?has accepted intelligence from Uzkbekistan that was "largely rubbish."
     The ambassador claims to know of at least three individuals rendered to Uzbekistan ?by the United States, where cases of the authorities boiling prisoners' body parts have been documented.
     Washington ?has admitted it is holding some suspects, including top Al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but it does not say where he is detained.
    Mohammed has reportedly been "water boarded" during interrogations: So called 'water boarding' refers to a practice whereby a detainee is bound and immersed in water until he nearly drowns.