25 September 2006

Perpetual motion machine

Katherine at Obsidian Wings tells us some backstory about Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was picked up by US airport security at JFK International Airport and sent to Syria for interrogation in a process called “extraordinary rendition,” which some readers may remember me mentioning earlier.
Syrian intelligence forces beat Maher Arar into falsely confessing that he had received terrorist training in Afghanistan. It's actually worse than that. Arar wasn't just tortured into a false confession in a Syrian prison. He also seems to have been sent to be tortured in Palestine Branch partly because of false confessions that two other Canadian citizens made under torture in the same prison.

Their names are Ahmad Abou El-Maati and Abdullah Almalki.
El-Maati's first interrogation:

During his first interrogation session, when the Syrian intelligence officers found El-Maati's initial answers to their questions unsatisfactory, they threatened to imprison and rape his wife. El-Maati said he had told the truth and that he ‘could not invent a story.’ But, according to El-Maati,
[T]hey told him yes, he could invent a story.

They told him to strip naked except for his shorts and made him lie down, and hancuffed his hands behind his back to his legs. He was still blindfoled. They poured ice water all over him and brought in thick electrical cables and started beating him with them on his feet, legs, knees and back. They would occasionally stop and take him back to his cell. This continued for two days.

Ahmad broke down and agreed to say what they wanted him to say.

Emphasis mine.

Mind you, this isn't what the President means when he talks about the importance of permitting the US to use “tough interrogation methods.” This was the bad Syrians, not the good and virtuous US. All the US did was send Arar to Syria to be interrogated, because the US had evidence that suggested that he was a al-Qaeda terrorist. Okay, it turns out that this evidence was incorrect, in part because some of it was beaten out of people. But that was done by the Syrians, not the US, so you see that this is all the Syrians' responsibility, not ours. I am sure that this process will eventually lead to the torture of people who really are terrorists, and the US will take responsibility for doing that torture.

I mean interrogation. Did I say “torture?” Sorry. Interrogation. Tough but legal interrogation.

Obsidian Wings has a lot more on the Maher Arar story.

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