Maher Arar was a Canadian citizen who was on his way home when his plane landed at JFK airport in order for him to catch a plane bound for home. Somehow, his name showed up on the computer as the name of a terrorist and he was seized. He was told it was impossible for him to enter America and the police made certain he had no access to a lawyer. Within hours, Mr. Arar was on his way to Syria which had well developed methods of torturing prisoners. He spent ten months in a small cell and was denied access to any contact with relatives let alone legal advice. An earlier case was thrown out by an American court on grounds to hold a trial would “threaten national security.” The court also ruled he had not met conditions of the time period required to request a review of what happened to him. Of course, the Syrian government was not in the habit of allowing anyone access to a court.
The case is now being reviewed by the US Court of Appeals. Judge Sonia Sotomayer asked the government if threats to national security allowed torturing of prisoners and was told by the government not to rule on the case and allow Congress to pass legislation. The evidence is clear, high level government officials knew all about the rendition program and allowed it to proceed. No one in the Bush administration has apologized to Mr. Arar for what he experienced since, most probably, they believe it was his fault for having the same name as a terrorist. At least, his parents should have known better than to give him such a name.
The real tragedy of this case is the wrong man was sent to be tortured instead of those who agreed with torture.