Sending a Canadian technology consultant to be confined in a gravelike cell and tortured did nothing to make Americans safer. A Syrian-born Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, 36, was returning home from a vacation in September 2002 when U.S. federal agents detained him in New York City on suspicion of ties to terrorism. Rather than send him to his home and our close ally, Canada, for interrogation, the U.S. government sent him to Syria, a nation with a history of engaging in torture. A year later he was released. Three years later a Canadian commission found no evidence that Arar had any terrorist connection. The commission also concluded that he was systematically tortured and held under horrendous conditions.
The Bush Administration refuses to acknowledge any responsibility, instead offering the tepid explanation that Syrian officials assured the U.S. that Arar would not be tortured. These are the same Syrian officials with whom our government now says it will not negotiate because they are not trustworthy. Maher Arar's case stands as a sad example of how we have been too willing to sacrifice our core principles to overarching government power in the name of security, when doing so only undermines the principles we stand for and makes us less safe.
Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
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