Shocking government report reveals RCMP fabricated evidence, then tries to explain
it away with “lack of training” excuse, and as ruse for more money and power.
Maher’s Story in Brief
Maher Arar is a 34-year-old wireless technology consultant. Arar was born in Syria and at the age of 17, came to Canada with his family. He became a Canadian citizen in 1991 and in 1997 moved to Ottawa.
In September 2002, Arar was in Tunisia, vacationing with his wife Monia Mazigh and their two small children. On Sept. 26 while in transit in New York’s JFK airport, he was detained by US officials and interrogated about alleged links to al-Qaeda. Twelve days later, he was chained, shackled and flown to Jordan aboard a private plane and from there transferred to a Syrian prison.
In Syria, he was held in a tiny “grave-like” cell for ten months and ten days before he was moved to a better cell in a different prison. He was beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession.
During his imprisonment, Monia campaigned relentlessly on his behalf. After many representations from Canadian Human Rights organizations and a growing number of citizens, the Government of Canada, on Jan. 28, 2004, announced a Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.
Read more about Maher’s story.
My Own Private Nightmare
The Horrors of Extraordinary Rendition – By MAHER ARAR
OTTAWA — An inexperienced RCMP anti-terrorism squad gave false information to American authorities —tagging Maher Arar as an “Islamic extremist” — which very likely set off a chain of events leading to his deportation and torture in Syria, an exhaustive inquiry has found.
The report, made public yesterday, unequivocally cleared Arar, a 36-year-old Syrian-Canadian, of any “taint or suspicion” that he has terrorist ties and called for federal compensation for his one-year ordeal in a Syrian jail.
“I am able to say 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,” wrote inquiry head Justice Dennis O’Connor.
The RCMP bore the brunt of blame in the 1,200-page report, crafted after a public inquiry was struck to get to the bottom of how Arar was arrested by U.S. authorities in September 2002 while traveling through New York’s JFK Airport and deported to Syria.
He was released a year later, without charges, and returned to his Ottawa home.
The report stressed there is no evidence Canadian officials “participated or acquiesced” in the U.S. decision to bundle Arar on a plane for Syria. The Mounties, however, failed Arar, a former software engineer who recently moved to Kamloops by advising American officials to put him and his wife, Monia Mazigh, on a U.S. watch list in October2001.
“The requests indicated they were part of a group of Islamic extremist individuals suspected of being linked to al-Qaeda, a description that was inaccurate, without any basis and potentially extremely inflammatory in the United States in the fall of 2001 the report said.
“The RCMP had no basis for this description, which had the potential to create serious consequences for Mr. Arar in tight of American attitudes and practices at the time.”
O’Connor went on to conclude that “it is very likely that, in making the decisions to detain and remove Mr. Arar, American authorities relied on information about Mr. Arar provided by the RCMP.”
Arar, who flew to Ottawa for the report’s release, said he is relieved that name finally has been cleared.
“I call this the beginning of going back to a normal life,” he told a press conference, his voice often breaking with emotion.
Arar’s lawyer, Marlys Edwardh, denounced the RCMP investigation as “breath-takingly incompetent.”
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said yesterday that “the compensation question is a fair one” and that the government is open to the prospect in light of a lawsuit that Arar has already filed against the government. Day stopped short, however, of apologizing to the former Ottawa engineer and father of two.
“The whole aspect of what happened to Mi, Mar is regrettable, there’s no question about that. We hope that with any future situations like this we will never see this again.
[Translation: We hope we get away with it next time]
The report found that RCMP told the U.S. to put Arar on a watch list even though the Mounties had only identified him as a “person of interest” as a result of a three-hour meeting with another Ottawa man who was a terrorist suspect.
Project A-O Canada, the Ottawa-area anti-terrorism team that the RCMP formed on the fly in the weeks following the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was inexperienced, lacked training in national security, human rights and cultural sensitivity and even neglected to follow their own policies, the report found.
“In this regard, the RCMP failed completely, particularly in the critically important area of information sharing with American agencies,” the report said.
While acknowledging the importance of the anti-terrorism squad, O’Connor chastised the RCMP for not following the agency’s own rules, which required “look out” alerts to U.S. border authorities to be accompanied by “caveats” on how the information was to be used.
“The fact that Project A-O Canada did not attach written caveats to the information about Mr. Arar’ provided to American agencies increased the risk that those agencies would use the information for purposes unacceptable to the RCMP, such as removing him to Syria.”
The RCMP also handed over to the Americans the entire contents of Project A-O’s investigative database, contained on three compact disks, without screening the information, the report notes.
The report made 23 recommendations, including training for RCMP involved in national security investigations, a new system for submitting “lookout” alerts to foreign countries about Canadian citizens, and a ban on CSIS and the RCMP sharing information internationally that could lead to torture.
Day said yesterday that there is already a new protocol in place with the United States on how to handle cases involving Canadians who are detained there, and that the government will consider all other – recommendations.
______ Other links of relevant interest _______
After the alleged ‘government of Canada’ “discovers” it’s “law enforcement” agents
fabricated evidence (a criminal offence!!!) that lead to a man’s unlawful detention, and
torture, the “Prime Minister” refuses to offer a simple apology for this outrage!
PM balks at apologizing to Arar
By JANICE Tibbetts AND SHELDON ALBERTS
Can West News Service September 20, 2006 p. A3
The Harper government refused calls yesterday to apologize to Maher Arar and punish or even fire the head of the RCMP for leading a force that sent false intelligence reports to the U.S. that were blamed for the software engineer’s deportation and torture in Syria.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, under pressure from all three opposition parties in the House of Commons, ignored repeated urgings from the opposition and Arar’s supporters to offer an apology, noting that Arar’s ordeal took place under the former Liberal government.
`I think it’s clear that … Mr. Arar has been done a tremendous injustice‘ said Harper, adding that his government intends to “act swiftly” in implementing the recommendations contained in the Justice Dennis O’Connor’s exhaustive public inquiry report, released Monday.
Arar is currently negotiating a settlement with the government and apologies, if they can be obtained in advance, have in the past been used as a key bargaining tool when seeking compensation.
In Washington, the Bush administration denied U.S. intelligence officials deliberately sent Arar to Syria for interrogation as a possible terrorist.
Speaking to reporters in the U.S. capital, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the U.S. government would never knowingly ship a suspect terrorist to another country if it believed that person would be tortured. Further, Gonzales specifically refuted claims Arar was removed from the U.S. in 2002 as part of the Bush administration’s controversial “extraordinary rendition” policy
“Mr. Arar was deported under our immigration laws. He was initially detained because his name appeared on terrorists lists,” Gonzales told reporters. “Some people have characterized his removal as a rendition. That is not what happened here. It was a deportation.”
Gonzales’s comments marked the Bush administration’s first reaction to O’Connor’s report about Canada’s role in Arar’s detention in New York and his subsequent imprisonment and torture in Syria.
O’Connor’s report singled out U.S. officials for criticism, saying “they removed (Arar) to Syria against his wishes and in the face of statements that he would be tortured if sent there.”
O `Connor recommended Ottawa register a formal objection with the U.S. government for its treatment of Arar.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day also rejected opposition suggestions RCMP commissioner Guiliano Zaccardelli be fired or force to resign for the actions of his force, which bore the brunt of the blame for the Arar affair in the report.
“We’re not taking any precipitous action related to the RCMP,” said Day.
The RCMP remained silent for the second straight day about the inquiry findings, directing all inquires to the “Pubic Security Department”.
Outside the commons, Liberal MP John McCallum said he is “inclined to think” that Zaccardelli should go and Irwin Colter, the Liberal public safety critic and [alleged] Arar supporter, said that the force, perhaps as far up as the top, should somehow pay for its actions.
“The government could make a determination whether they feel Zaccardelli should have to go or Zaccardelli could make his own decision whether he feels under the circumstances he should resign,” said Cotler. “It may be in this instance the responsibility lies with those officials who conveyed the wrongful information and those individuals need to be held accountable through whatever means the RCMP has to hold its officials accountable.”
He suggested that the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, an independent public watchdog, could examine the issue of fault.
Arar, meanwhile, called on the government yesterday to take action against those responsible, but he did not elaborate.
“I have always said that I want whoever is responsible for this to be held accountable, to make sure that this doesn’t happen to any other Canadian. It is really up to the Canadian government to decide how to do this,” Arar said yesterday on CTV’s Canada AM.
A Syrian-Canadian, Arar was arrested by U.S. officials while passing through New York’s JFK airport in September 2002 and deported to Syria, where he endured torture in a Damascus jail before he was released a year later, without charges.
One has to wonder, in light of the below story, just what evidence the RCMP
fabricated….. or perhaps this is one more lie they forgot to kill before the New
York Times printed it.
Torture Victim Had No Terror Link, Canada Told U.S.
When the United States sent Maher Arar to Syria, where he was tortured for months, the deportation order stated unequivocally that Mr. Arar, a Canadian software engineer, was a member of Al Qaeda. But a few days earlier, Canadian investigators had told the F.B.I. that they had not been able to link him to the terrorist group.
That is one of the disclosures in the 1,200-page report released last week after a two-year Canadian investigation of Mr. Arar’s case found him to be innocent of any terrorist ties. The report urges the Canadian government to formally protest the American treatment of Mr. Arar, a recommendation Canadian officials are considering.
Mr. Arar, 37, who now lives in British Columbia, has a lawsuit against United States officials and agencies that is on appeal, and he has demanded an explanation for his treatment from the Bush administration.
A close reading of the Arar Commission report offers a rare window on American actions in the case, describing seemingly flimsy evidence behind the American decision in 2002 to send Mr. Arar to a country notorious for torture; a deliberate attempt by American officials to deceive Canada about where Mr. Arar was; and lingering confusion among top American officials about the two countries’ roles in the case.
“Flimsy evidence”? Try fabricated, untruthful, unreal, imaginary, false……
President Bush earlier this month acknowledged for the first time that high-level people suspected of being terrorists had been held in secret prisons overseas by the Central Intelligence Agency. But he and other officials have said nothing publicly about the American practice of rendition, in which dozens of suspects have been seized and turned over for interrogation to other countries, including several known to engage routinely in torture.
Cases like that of Mr. Arar would not be affected by the compromise legislation on detainee treatment worked out between the White House and Republican senators last week, since it would have no effect on interrogation methods used by other countries. In fact, the proposed bill would strip non-Americans held overseas under United States control of the right to challenge their detention in federal court.
“It’s a huge hole in what Congress is doing,” said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which represents Mr. Arar in his lawsuit. “The government can still send people secretly to other countries where they’ll be tortured.”
For nearly four years, the United States government has refused to make public any information on the case of Mr. Arar, which has become an international symbol of American excesses in the campaign against terrorism. The Bush administration refused to cooperate with the Canadian commission, so many questions about American actions and motives remain unanswered.
But Mr. Arar’s case is more public than other cases of rendition, because he was detained inside the United States and legally deported, creating a modest paper trail. The three-volume report describes Canadian contacts with American officials in meticulous detail, offering by far the fullest account of any rendition case to date.
The commission’s report says inexperienced Canadian police officials originally passed inaccurate information to the United States linking Mr. Arar to terrorism, based largely on his acquaintance with other men under suspicion.
But in the days after Sept. 26, 2002, when Mr. Arar was detained while changing planes at Kennedy International Airport in New York City, a flurry of calls and faxes between the countries included more equivocal information.
An Oct. 4 fax to the F.B.I. from Canadian counterterrorism officials said that they “had yet to complete either a detailed investigation of Mr. Arar or a link analysis on him,” and that “while he has had contact with many individuals of interest to this project we are unable to indicate links to Al Qaeda.”
So was the fabricated part, the idea that he had contact with many individuals of interest to their “project”?
That was particularly significant because the commission concludes that all, or virtually all, of the United States’ knowledge of any threat posed by Mr. Arar came from the Canadians.
The next day, on Saturday, Oct. 5, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police official spoke by phone with an unidentified F.B.I. official. “During this conversation, the FBI official said that the Americans feared they did not have sufficient information to support charges against Mr. Arar,” the report says.
The Canadian officer said that likewise, “There was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Arar in Canada.”
Canadian officials told the Americans that if they allowed Mr. Arar to travel home to Canada, he would be kept under surveillance. But by then the Americans were already secretly working on the Syrian option, a legal possibility because Mr. Arar retained his citizenship in Syria, where he was born.
“The American authorities appear to have intentionally kept Canadian officials in the dark about their plans to remove Mr. Arar to Syria,” the report says.
Despite the uncertain report from Canada on Mr. Arar and terrorism, on Oct. 7, an Immigration and Naturalization Service official ruled that evidence “clearly and unequivocally reflects that Mr. Arar is a member of a foreign terrorist organization, to wit, Al Qaeda.” At 4 a.m. the next day, Mr. Arar was bundled aboard a Gulfstream jet that flew him to Jordan, from which he was driven to a prison in neighboring Syria.
Paul J. J. Cavalluzzo, lead counsel to the Arar Commission, said he found the American actions inconsistent. “On Saturday,” Mr. Cavalluzzo said, “you have the F.B.I. saying, `We don’t have enough to charge him.’ On Monday, he’s a member of Al Qaeda. Well, if he’s a member of Al Qaeda, in your country he can be charged.”
Even after Mr. Arar arrived in Syria, American officials did not tell their Canadian counterparts. Only two weeks later, on Oct. 21, did Canada get confirmation, when a Syrian military intelligence officer phoned the Canadian ambassador in Damascus to say he was in custody.
Mr. Arar spent 10 months in the custody of Syrian interrogators who beat him repeatedly with a heavy metal cable and held him in a dank cell scarcely larger than a coffin, according to the commission report. In October 2003, he was released and returned to his wife and children in Canada.
And for all this, our so-called Prime Minister, does not so much as even apologize… Do you not see something seriously wrong with this picture?
But some top American officials appear to have been misinformed about the deportation decision. After Jean Chrétien, then Canadian prime minister, said publicly that the United States had decided unilaterally to send Mr. Arar to Syria, the Canadian ambassador was summoned to the National Security Council and scolded by Frances Townsend, the deputy national security adviser, who said it had been a “joint decision,” the report says.
Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state, had also suggested publicly that the Canadians were complicit in the Syria deportation. But on Dec. 1, 2003, Mr. Powell called Bill Graham, the Canadian foreign minister, to say the United States had not consulted Canada about the decision.
“I was mistaken,” Mr. Powell told Mr. Graham, the report says.
The Canadian judge who led the inquiry, Dennis R. O’Connor, urged a formal protest over the American conduct. Peter MacKay, the Canadian foreign affairs minister, said Thursday it was too early to decide on a protest but added that there was an “urgent need” for talks on the issues raised by the case.
A State Department spokeswoman, Janelle Hironimus, said Friday that she knew of no plans for such talks. She said the Bush administration had declined to cooperate with the Arar Commission because its “mandate was to investigate and report on the actions of Canadian officials, and Canadian authorities were therefore the most appropriate entities to respond.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, Tasia Scolinos, said that she could not respond in detail to the commission’s findings but that the United States government “removed Mr. Arar in full compliance with the law and all applicable international treaties and conventions.” She also said the government “sought assurances with respect to Mr. Arar’s treatment” in Syria.
Mr. Cavalluzzo, the commission counsel, noted that the report held Canadian officials accountable for many lapses. But in an interview on Friday from Toronto, he said he remained “troubled” by American actions, chiefly the decision to turn Mr. Arar over to a government whose promises not to torture him had no credibility.
“Even at this time, when terrorism is a real danger,” he said, “this case points out how important it is to preserve the democratic rights we have cherished for centuries.”
Which would not only include the right not to be tortured (FOR ANY REASON), but the right not to have a so-called “law enforcement” agency [namely the RCMP] commit criminal acts by fabricating evidence, as the report clearly states, but seems strangely omitted from this NYTimes article.
US Homeland Security gestapo finally chime in on Arar Case…. June/08
RCMP chief changes story, claims he didn’t know of key error in Arar case
OTTAWA (CP) – RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli is offering a revised version of what he knew and when he knew it in the Maher Arar affair – pleading ignorance about a key mistake that contributed to Arar’s deportation to Syria.
In a speech Monday, Zaccardelli said he didn’t find out until a public inquiry reported this fall that the Mounties had passed erroneous information about Arar to U.S. authorities.
Justice Dennis O’Connor concluded that the material – wrongly labelling Arar an Islamic extremist with suspected ties to al-Qaida – “very likely” led the Americans to send him to Damascus, where he was tortured into false confessions of terrorist activity.
“Senior officials, including myself, were not informed until the commd [sic] completed its work,” Zaccardelli told the Canadian Club.
But that appeared to contradict what he told a parliamentary committee in September, when he indicated he had learned of the error much earlier.
“I personally became involved in the file after Mr. Arar was detained and sent to Syria,” he said then. “I asked for the file and I asked for specific documents relating to what happened.”
During the course of the review, he said, he learned the Mounties had “tried to correct what was labelled as false or inaccurate information with respect to Mr. Arar.”
Although he didn’t state a precise time frame, MPs from all parties took the remarks to mean Zaccardelli knew of the mistake shortly after the Arar saga began.
They pressed him unsuccessfully to explain why he didn’t go public at the time to correct the record. And since then they have heard from a series of witnesses who said Zaccardelli never told them of the error.
Among those who were in the dark were former ministers Wayne Easter and Anne McLellan, both of whom had political responsibility for the RCMP.
Zaccardelli finally acknowledged Monday that “when ministers were briefed about the circumstances of the Arar case, their briefings did not include the fact that some inaccurate information had been provided to the Americans by the RCMP.”
But that was because the force didn’t recognize the importance of the error at the time – and he didn’t personally know about it at all, he said.
[Interesting that the words “error” and “inaccurate info” is used in this article, when the investigation showed “fabrication of evidence” on the part of the RCMP. Fabrication of evidence is a criminal offence, so either the call came from the top, or the top cops have failed to charge those responsible who work under their command.]
Zaccardelli insisted there was “no discrepancy” between what he said in September and what he says now, and promised to elaborate when he appears at committee for a second time Tuesday.
“If there was some misunderstanding . . . I look forward to answering and clarifying that point,” he said.
Liberal MP Mark Holland reacted with disbelief, calling the commissioner’s latest explanation of the affair a “jaw-dropping contradiction.”
He said he’ll listen to anything Zaccardelli wants to add at committee but “I cannot imagine any scenario, I cannot imagine any circumstance, in which he can explain the incredible number of contradictions that have been made.”
New Democrat Joe Comartin said Zaccardelli left a clear impression in September that he knew soon after Arar’s deportation that the Mounties had made a mistake.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said he wants to read a transcript of what Zaccardelli told the Canadian Club before drawing any firm conclusions.
In the meantime, Day continued to defend the commissioner and to rebuff calls for his resignation or his dismissal by the Conservative government.
“He’s still there, he still has the confidence of the government, as does the entire RCMP which is doing a great job of keeping us safe on our streets,” said Day.
Arar, a Syrian-born telecommunications engineer who now holds Canadian citizenship, came to RCMP attention because he had been spotted talking to another man who was a target of an anti-terrorist investigation.
The Mounties later exchanged information about the case with U.S. officials, including a request for American border guards to be on the lookout for Arar.
It was that notice that incorrectly characterized him as an “Islamic extremist” and suggested he had links to al-Qaida.
Zaccardelli admitted that it also inaccurately portrayed him as having refused to be interviewed and as having left Canada suddenly for Tunisia.
In fact, although the Mounties wanted to interview Arar, they never considered him more than a peripheral “person of interest” in an investigation targeting others. His trip to Tunisia was undertaken because his mother-in-law, who was living there, had fallen ill.
Top Mountie gives contradictory hearing evidence – again!
The RCMP wasted no money (your money that is) on putting the right media spin on the Maher Arar hearings, by hiring a high priced American media consultant, McLoughlin Media. There main office is located in Washington DC (1825 Eye Street, and use a masonic red triangle as their logo).
As we stated, this Zaccardelli “forced retirement” farce was fully designed to misdirect the real issue of RCMP criminal misconduct via fabrication of evidence, as the previous judicial report stated.
The media (and “new” government of Canadian) has totally ignored the fact that criminal activities were clearly a systemic part of the way they handled this case.
Our friend Zaccardelli is at the heart of yet another major scandal, and he’s lying about the facts in this one too….
Investigator to probe RCMP scandal – By JIM BRONSKILL
OTTAWA (CP) – A federally appointed investigator will probe allegations that top Mounties committed fraud involving RCMP benefit plans.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day promised a “full public report” on the ballooning RCMP scandal but stopped short of calling a public inquiry, which would have authority to subpoena witnesses. Day said the investigator, who was not immediately named, will report to the government within 12 weeks on accusations of fraud and abuse in the management of the national police force’s pension and insurance plans.
The obstruction and coverup allegations made by current and former RCMP officers Wednesday at the Commons public accounts committee are “of grave concern” to the government, Day said.
“We want answers now.”
The investigator will have the power to examine all records, as well as access to a panel of experts including forensic auditors, he said. “This person will be able to operate independently.”
The resulting report will be made public, Day added.
In the House of Commons, the Liberals demanded a full judicial inquiry, saying the government plan falls short.
Day said such an inquiry would take too long, but he insisted the investigator would be able to recommend a broader probe if obstructed in any way.
Interim RCMP Commissioner Bev Busson welcomed the probe, saying “I wholeheartedly support this step.”
She said it’s clear there were “irregularities” with the pension and insurance plans, but that steps had been taken to correct the problems.
Busson said she’s especially concerned about allegations of coverup and punitive action by senior officers and is “determined to get to the bottom of this as quickly and transparently as possible.”
A senior Mountie has already stepped down and the public accounts committee held an emergency meeting earlier Thursday to plan its next steps.
RCMP Sgt. Nathalie Deschenes said the deputy commissioner in charge of human resources, Barb George, offered to quit her post and the resignation was accepted. George had yet to be reassigned.
At the committee Wednesday, serving and former officers alleged that senior Mounties tried to block probes into handling of the pension and insurance plans.
In June 2005, the Ottawa police reported to the RCMP that they had uncovered abuses of the plans, nepotism, waste and bypassing of controls by management. Two senior officials subsequently resigned.
Crown attorneys concluded there was no point in laying charges because the evidence was likely too weak to obtain convictions.
In a report last fall, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said she was assured by the municipal police that there was no interference from the RCMP. But she also observed that the lead investigator reported directly to a senior RCMP officer, raising a potential public perception of bias.
The matter has simmered for years as the issues wound their way through internal RCMP channels, the municipal police investigation and the auditor general’s office before landing in the public accounts committee’s lap.
It appeared the MPs would continue to pursue the matter despite the newly announced federal probe, with committee hearings to resume in April after a two-week parliamentary break.
Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj said “the lid’s off” the controversy now. “This culture of corruption at the top echelons of the RCMP has to be addressed.”
Former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli is on a list of prospective witnesses who might be called before the committee.
Zaccardelli resigned in December after delivering contradictory testimony about the Maher Arar affair.
He was harshly criticized at Wednesday’s committee meeting.
“While trying to expose these wrongdoings, which were both criminal and code-of-conduct violations, I had face-to-face meetings and complaints up to and including Commissioner Zaccardelli,” Ron Lewis, a retired RCMP staff sergeant told the MPs.
“I was met with inaction, delays, roadblocks, obstruction and lies. The person who orchestrated most of this coverup was Commissioner Zaccardelli.”
Said Chief Supt. Fraser Macaulay: “The RCMP has had a small group of managers who through their actions and inactions are responsible for serious breaches in our core values, the RCMP code of conduct and even the Criminal Code.”
Macaulay testified he was transferred to work with the Defence Department for two years after asking too many questions.
Members of the committee appeared shocked.
Zaccardelli told CBC-TV the accusations were baseless and that he could justify his actions.