Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The most important right of all

… is apparently the right of governments to lie about their actions to their citizens.

Bob Herbert had a great op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times on the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was kidnapped by U.S. authorities at Kennedy Airport in 2002 and “rendered” to Syria (full text accessible only to subscribers, lengthy excerpts available here). After enduring ten months of interrogation and unspeakable torture, he was released without being charged. With the help of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Arar brought a lawsuit against former attorney general John Ashcroft and other U.S. officials who were responsible.

The lawsuit was dimissed last week. One of the reasons given by Judge David Trager, apparently with a straight face, was this:

“One need not have much imagination to contemplate the negative effect on our relations with Canada if discovery were to proceed in this case and were it to turn out that certain high Canadian officials had, despite public denials, acquiesced in Arar's removal to Syria.”

Well, no, we can’t have that, can we—Heaven forfend that certain high-ranking government officials be caught out in a lie. As Herbert enthuses, “Oh yes, by all means, we need the federal courts to fully protect the right of public officials to lie to their constituents.”

So, it will be interesting to see if German officials receive the same sort of protection. Today’s New York Times reports on the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen vacationing in Macedonia who was abducted by local authorities acting on the instructions of the Americans ("We consider the Americans as our partners," a senior Macedonian official said. "We cannot refuse them.") He was detained in Macedonia for 23 days before being shipped to an American prison in Afghanistan for rough interrogation over the next five months. He was then released, with no charges filed.

The German government claims to have been kept in the dark about the whole affair until after el-Masri's release (sort of like the Poles and Romanians deny having any knowledge of the secret CIA prisons operating in their national territories). “But on Monday in Neu-Ulm near Munich, the police and prosecutors opened an investigation into whether Germany served as a silent partner of the United States in the abduction of the man.”

The Times, incidentally, while reporting in some depth on the story of what happened to el-Masri, glosses over the details of his “release,” but you can read more in the Guardian article of a couple of months ago. He was reportedly just dumped, blindfolded and without any money, explanation, or apology, in the mountainous forest along the Albanian border, close to Serbia and Macedonia, and expected to find his own way out.

Or not. Probably the Americans were hoping he’d just die and rot there, and the embarrassing evidence of their “mistake” would conveniently disappear.

I’ll be interested to see where this investigation leads.


Blogger Gary said...

pic of Interior Minister Hanning

3:47 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Jean said...


THANK YOU for stopping by and leaving your calling card. Some very useful posts and links. I've been very interested in the progress of the Marty investigation but not been getting much information about it. This is great.

I was originally going to link to a couple of posts by Steve Clemons at The Washington Note on el-Masri's story--it was at Steve's blog that I first read of how el-Masri was simply dumped in a forest in a rough and dangerous part of the world--but there may have been some minor inaccuracies in his account at the time. E.g. Steve says the guy had no identification, but the news reports state he had his passport with him. Still, worth looking at:



And Steve will soon be reporting on the film "The Triangle of Anger" about America's 'extraordinary rendition' practices since September 11, 2001:

8:08 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Gary said...

The story is getting into places we don't usually see and I left a comment.

MoMA this weekend showed two films in arabic, both NY premieres, "In the Battlefields" (2004) about Beirut and "Thirst"(2004) about arabs in Israel. Both rather plotless family dramas about a young woman the old folks thought was a "whore." here

12:40 AM, February 22, 2006  

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