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June 14, 2010

Maher Arar Needs Your Help

By: John Caruso

The Center for Constitutional Rights is calling on us all to do something for Maher Arar:

Today, the United States Supreme Court rejected CCR's case on behalf of Canadian citizen and extraordinary rendition survivor Maher Arar against U.S. officials for their role in sending him to Syria to be tortured and detained in an underground, grave-like cell for a year.  This latest decision signals the end to Maher's legal case to obtain justice in U.S. courts.  Now it is up to the White House and Congress: demand action now!

With this latest decision, CCR has exhausted the legal process. While we are deeply disappointed that the courts have been unwilling to recognize Maher's right to have his story heard by an American jury we will continue to pursue every available avenue towards an apology and remedies. This case has become a national embarrassment.  The U.S. refuses to acknowledge or apologize for the crimes and human rights abuses they committed when they sent Maher to Syria to be tortured.  Maher remains on a U.S. Watch List, despite an exhaustive investigation by the Canadian Commission of Inquiry that found "categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada."

As CCR cooperating attorney and Vice-President David Cole says, "The courts have regrettably refused to right the egregious wrong done to Maher Arar. But the courts have never questioned that a wrong was done. They have simply said that it is up to the political branches to fashion a remedy.  We are deeply disappointed that the courts have shirked their responsibility. But this decision only underscores the moral responsibility of those to whom the courts deferred - President Obama and Congress - to do the right thing and redress Arar's injuries."

So for Maher Arar's sake, click through on the link and spend the minute it'll take you to tell your Congressputz, Senatrollops, and Prevaricator Obama to do the right thing for once in their lives.

— John Caruso

Posted at June 14, 2010 05:41 PM

WE didn't murder him. It seems ungrateful that NOW he wants reparations. WE could have left him in Syria to rot or worse. He's STILL on the watch list as WE probably feel he holds some hard feelings over what WE did to him. These lawsuits only serve to reinforce that notion.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 14, 2010 06:10 PM

I'll just call Nan@1-202-225-0100.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 14, 2010 06:15 PM

Just did it.

It's really depressing who represents me in Congress, the Senate, and the White House. Democrats all, btw.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 14, 2010 07:11 PM

if clicking on links could change anything, it'd be illegal.

Posted by: anonymous at June 14, 2010 07:42 PM

Oh for God's fvcking sake, anon.

We owe this man justice, but since the courts have made that unavailable, we owe him a frank acknowledgment of the wrong our government did him, a huge apology, and removal from the criminally useless Watch List. How is that supposed to happen, by magic? It will only happen if people demand it, and publicize in their community the shameful need for it.

You're correct that a written, paper letter is more powerful than something that comes in by way of the e-transom. So send a letter.

Your comment is a way of excusing complete inaction. Save that for another occasion, please.

Posted by: Nell at June 14, 2010 08:26 PM

In anon's defense, nowdays the words "Now it is up to the White House and Congress ...!" are hardly less than an invitation to despair.

Posted by: Cloud at June 14, 2010 10:03 PM

The Canadian government apparently has paid Arar ten million dollars (presumably Canadian), and anyone who reads that decision should feel like he didn't get enough, but I felt a little better about that. Good for Canada.

CCR is great. Everybody should send them a bunch of money.

I like Nell's sentiment, but I disagree about what "magic" is necessary to get rid of the Watch List and all these other trappings of the National Security State, which is now well-entrenched as the National Security Industry, though Sham is my preferred term for it.

The US Courts are never going to fix this problem, and it's probably good the Supreme Court didn't grant cert in Arar's case, because nothing good would have come of that. The dissenting judges in Second Circuit all seemed to think Arar should lose because of the state secret privilege instead of the grounds on which he did lose (the absence of an implied Bivens remedy, though their reasoning is poor and I think dishonest). A ruling for the government based on the state secrets privilege would have been less harmful to others in application but still a defeat. I agree with Arar's CCR attorney that the Second Circuit decided more than it needed to and that it wasn't a well-reasoned decision, but that doesn't mean the dissenters would have ruled for Arar. To give a feel for that, below is a passage the DISSENTERS in the Second Circuit decision quoted from a district court opinion in 2006.

"In times of war, our country, chiefly through the Executive Branch, must often take exceptional steps to thwart the enemy. Of course, reasonable and patriotic Americans are still free to disagree about the propriety and efficacy of those exceptional steps. But what this decision holds is that these steps are not proper grist for the judicial mill where, as here, state secrets are at the center of the suit and the privilege is validly invoked."

Al-Masri v. Tenet, 437 F.Supp.2d at 540-41. As I said, the dissenters quoted that. That's the dreck we have to deal with. The federal government just has to put in some National Security affidavits to win. That's pretty easy.

Just as the judiciary will do nothing for non-citizens like Arar who get renditioned, NO President is EVER going to take the lead on letting terrorist suspects file lawsuits, so Congress is the only place this could potentially be fixed, but oops, that craven bunch of fundraisers won't ever get too excited about that either, so we do have a problem here. Anon is unfortunately right that clicking on a link, like rhetoric, is a feel-good measure. It has its place, but it won't change things. Politicians, even the best of them, are never going to risk much to help a Syrian accused of being a terrorist.

What could ever stop this? To militarists and warriors and patriots and true believers who think a strong and aggressive United States is necessary and good, the War On Terror is the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks to the efforts of the Cheney and Murdoch and Dershowitz crowd, and thanks to the heart of darkness in people even now, any mistreatment of any suspected terrorist will always be justifiable to many on the grounds of necessity and self-protection. So shaming won't work on those who need it, and the good are far too weak to do it. What did Yeats write? "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Same as it ever was.

If I may mix metaphors like a real hack, until the foundation of that tower of manure known as the War on Terror is kicked out from under it, it will remain standing. And stinking. And those like Arar who are tortured, whether in countries to which they have been renditioned or elsewhere, will not be easily helped, notwithstanding the efforts of fine groups like CCR.

So have some guts and stop believing. Honesty builds its own momentum. There's nothing magic about it.

Posted by: N E at June 14, 2010 11:39 PM

Thanks for that, Nell.

Look, people, Maher Arar spent ten months in hell thanks to our government. CCR has spent almost seven years investigating and litigating this case to try to get some measure of justice for him, despite constant frustrations and setbacks. And now, after all that pain and effort, CCR feels that it's worthwhile for you to send these messages. So please spend the 60 seconds it will take you to send these messages, and don't discourage other people from doing the same. To say that this is the least we can do to repay some of the debt we owe this man would be the understatement of the century.

Posted by: John Caruso at June 15, 2010 01:16 AM

that democracyinaction website is down.

Posted by: Peter Smith at June 15, 2010 02:32 AM

sorry for the cynicism above. CCR is doing great work, and the iota of effort it takes to do as TNR/CCR suggests lets the congresscritters know some somebodies out in the US wasteland are on to their game, even if it doesn't "change" anything.

the reason i said above what i did is that even if the supremes had found in favor of arar (which they should have, no dispute there), congress would retroactively immunize the defendants (and a whole class of defendants thereby). they've done it before.

all 3 branches nullify the law, any & all of it, w/the black hole of "national security."

Posted by: anonymous at June 15, 2010 07:32 AM

This reminds me of the Dred Scott case.

Posted by: Edward at June 15, 2010 08:41 AM


Right you are. It's government by creeping aggrandizement. When one branch - clearly - undertakes actions in violation of the statutes or undermines the Constitution, inevitably resulting in infringements on liberties, another branch (or both other branches) quickly act(s) to guarantee that impunity will remain the order of the day. And then the whole juggernaut lurches forward from there, forever afterward insulated from consequences in that area.


Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at June 15, 2010 08:45 AM


I have no illusions that the Watch List is going to disappear, by magic or otherwise.

This particular campaign has a much more limited and winnable demand: Take Maher Arar off the Watch List, and acknowledge and apologize for the hell our government put him through.

Postal letters, which because of their comparative scarcity are given much more weight than emails, can be sent to the White House at this address:

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

The more important communication is with your members of Congress. You can find the postal addresses and phone, fax, and email/webmail contact forms through their web sites, all of which have URLs in the form of or

The method with the best combination of speed and significance is a letter faxed to the DC office, because mailed letters are delayed a few days to a week by the anti-anthrax processing in place since October 2001. In the Arar case, there isn't (sadly) a specific bill that's coming up for a vote soon, so postal mail is fine.

Posted by: Nell at June 15, 2010 12:18 PM


Getting Arar off the Watch List is a great idea, almost as good as giving anyone the right to find out if they are on it and challenge that designation. I already followed the link to do that, though I obviously got caught up in the law and read your comment too quickly. Apologies for that.

Posted by: N E at June 15, 2010 01:50 PM

Nell et al.,

Here are a few other links to government sites that might be useful to you.

U.S. House of Representatives. If you fill in the little zip + 4 box, it will identify your representative and supply you with a link for further information such as physical addresses, phone numbers, etc. (If you only have your 5 digit zip, enter that and a link to the Postal Service's zip + 4 search engine will be offered.)
Lot's of other handy information is also accessible from the base site.

U.S. Senate. Use the "Find Your Senators" search engine to get access to contact information such as physical addresses, phone numbers, etc. As previously, much useful information is accessible through the base site.

Legislative information from the Library of Congress. Lots. Noodle and navigate. Many links.

U.S. Government Printing Office.
Lots and lots of stuff. You can even "Ask a Librarian" at one of the links under "Federal-Wide Resources". A trove.

I clerk government documents at a law library. Not a librarian, merely a hod carrier in academia. Beyond that, I'm a citizen. Just don't characterize me as a "consumer"; that's undignified, and an unworthy way to refer to a citizen of a constitutional republic. Up to now, I've never pledged allegiance to a corporation, and I don't plan on starting now. Fuck that. Although Devo's "Corporate Anthem" (from Duty Now for the Future) WAS an evocative little tune...

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at June 15, 2010 02:23 PM

I clicked through. I'm sure our President, formerly a professor of constitutional law, would like to do the right thing, if convenient.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at June 15, 2010 03:16 PM

I just read an article about a man from Colo., arrested in Pakistan, posing as an OSAMA BIN LADEN look a like, ostensibly to go and GET BIN LADEN. Now in custody of ISI, one can imagine that he too, in a few years hense, may well be in the SAME situation as WE now find Mr. Arar.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 15, 2010 03:43 PM

Correction- I guess the picture in the article was BIN LADEN.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 15, 2010 05:56 PM

Mike Meyer

Thanks for reminding me of Gilda Radner! :)

Arar's story reminds of me two movies, Rendition, which I thought very good, and especially because Arar is Syrian, The Visitor, which is exceptional and moving.

mistah charley ph.d.

Please don't confuse 'the right thing' with constitutional law! The right thing has even less to do with law than with politics.

Posted by: N E at June 15, 2010 07:29 PM

"Of course, reasonable and patriotic Americans are still free to disagree about the propriety and efficacy of those exceptional steps."

Well, a great big big fucking thank you to these dimwitted judges. They really know how to honor our blood spangled banner.

Posted by: Jesus B Ochoa at June 16, 2010 11:29 AM

Everyone stand up for Muslims Against Crusaders! This sounds like a terrific group. Let's disparage the fascists who taunted them with sausage links.

Posted by: seth at June 16, 2010 11:42 AM

Seth: I'm NOT joining the crusades with U.
NE: It was the beard that fooled me.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 16, 2010 01:28 PM


Those Nazi crusaders were big on using Islam against the godless commies before anyone else, and then the CIA took over for them (those Langley guys gave General Reinhard Gehlen, head of the Fremde Heeren Ost, his own organization).

From the 50s onward, the CIA and West German intel kept funding, promoting, and using radical Islam, because nobody hates godless commies like fundamentalists. Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson has a new book about it:

A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West

It's not quite the same crucsade as the original, but maybe not so different. It's also unclear if and when anybody has ever gone off the payroll.

Posted by: N E at June 16, 2010 01:30 PM

Mike Meyer

Just humor me and say 'never mind' instead of correction next time.

Posted by: N E at June 16, 2010 01:32 PM

oh fudge, NE, just when my faith in the "naive" CIA was being restored, due to all that noble remote killing they are doing in pakistan et alibi, and other ineffably valorous services, you have to go & remind us how imitative of the nazis they are.

Posted by: anonymous at June 16, 2010 04:35 PM

I think it is interesting that Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood are all CIA/Zionist front groups.

I'm relieved that there is no actual conflict in the world-it is all just a "false flag" game by
real allies.

Posted by: seth at June 16, 2010 11:54 PM


How did you mentally make my position that the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood are "Zionist" front groups? I'm not aware of Mossad having much to do with the Taliban or the Muslim Brotherhood. That doesn't mean they didn't have anything to do with it, of course, but they only would have done that to the extent they perceived it as in their interests in some way. That's what all intel services do. Mossad helped Hamas because they could use it against Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. I wouldn't be surprised if they also helped the CIA use the Muslim Brotherhood against Nasser and pan-arab socialist movements, but I don't think that was ever more than a supporting role. The CIA's motives have never had anything to do with approving of Zionism, which in the beginning nobody liked because it complicated everythign and created risks, and it still is a big complicating factor. The US National Security State uses Israel out of self-interest, not affection. One of the biggest mistakes the Israeli right makes is to act as if US support for Israel is permanent. I'm sure they actually know better, but the time horizon for their planning is too short, which seems to be a universal flaw, so they are myopic.

You can stop being relieved, because the world is basically all conflict, all the time. But it's basically also all deception all the time too, because it runs basically the same as it ever did, but with voting publics that don't want to know how the sausage is made.

You're going to have to move beyond quips to understand how the world works, but it's not that hard once you recognize that: there is no accountability in matters touching upon National Security, which now involves the whole of foreign policy and much of domestic policy; powerful interests will do ANYTHING they believe necessary to protect National Security, which increasingly encompasses a broader "conservative" ideology; there is no limit to how much wool can be pulled over the eyes of the public, including you.

That last part is important, because the First Law of Irony is that anyone who doesn't admit that he can be completely fooled will be.

Posted by: N E at June 17, 2010 08:40 AM

N E : I meant the slash between "CIA/Zionist" to mean "and/or."

Whoever said that states have morals or any motives other than total power? Not me!

Posted by: seth at June 17, 2010 10:02 AM


If you meant "and/or" you really should have just stopped at "front groups." There was no need to unnecessarily make yourself sound like a jihadi for those NSA supercomputers.

More on topic for everyone else, the evils of the watch lists continue to the present, and what happened to Arar continues to happen not just to foreign Muslims, but to Muslim Americans like Yahya Wehelie and his brother Yusuf:

Maybe someone needs to write The Souls of Muslim Folk, because the shabby racism in the watch list reminds me of Jim Crow so much that I have discovered W.E.B. Du Bois, though embarrassingly belatedly. The passage below by Du Bois is among the very best I've ever read, though perhaps not even the best of its author, because I'm sorry to say I wouldn't know.

"It is a hard thing to live haunted by the ghost of an untrue dream; to see the wide vision of empire fade into real ashes and dirt; to feel
the pang of the conquered, and yet know that with all the Bad that fell on one black day, something was vanquished that deserved to live, something killed that in justice had not dared to die; to know that with the Right that triumphed, triumphed something of Wrong, something
sordid and mean, something less than the broadest and best. All this is bitter hard; and many a man and city and people have found in it
excuse for sulking, and brooding, and listless waiting."

W.E. Burghardt Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (8th edition, A.C. McClurg & Co. 1909) at 76. It can be downloaded free online, which shows you can sometimes get something priceless for nothing if you look a little.

Posted by: N E at June 17, 2010 11:35 AM