CSIS suspected Arar would be deported: documents
Published Thursday, August 9, 2007 7:27PM EDT
Canadian security officials suspected that Maher Arar would be deported by the U.S. to a third country, according to previously censored documents.
Following a Federal Court ruling, new portions of the report by Justice Dennis O'Connor into why the Syrian-born Canadian was deported from the U.S. to Syria, where he was tortured, were made public on Thursday.
The new information reveals that a Canadian Security Intelligence Service officer in Washington wrote to his superiors about the possibility of "rendering" to third countries, specifically by the FBI and CIA.
The officer said Arar's situation could mean that the U.S. would send him to a third country for questioning because they could not legally hold him in the U.S.
The documents also reveal that on Oct. 10, 2002, two days after Arar was deported to Jordan before he was sent on to Syria, CSIS deputy director Jack Hooper said in a memorandum: "I think the U.S. would like to get Arar to Jordan where they can have their way with him."
The documents also reveal that within a month of his detention in Syria, the country regarded Arar as a "nuisance" and "a minor actor."
"If that's the way the Syrians viewed him in November of 2002, then why did we only get him out in October of 2003?" said Paul Cavalluzzo, who acted as chief counsel for a public inquiry into the Arar affair.
The new information also confirms that the RCMP relied on questionable intelligence from abroad -- possibly acquired under torture -- but never told that to the judge when it asked for wiretaps against Arar.
"So that's the kind of full disclosure that should have been given in this case and wasn't, and hopefully in the future our security forces will be far more candid in their disclosure," Cavalluzzo told CTV News.
The newly released portions of the inquiry also show that the RCMP was in contact with the CIA at the time.
There are about 1,500 words in the report written by Justice Dennis O'Connor that had been censored. CSIS and the RCMP tried unsuccessfully to convince a judge to keep those details secret, arguing Canada's reputation in the international intelligence community could be hurt.
With Thursday's development more of that censored information has been released, but some is still being withheld.
Lorne Waldman, a senior counsel for Arar, told CTV Newsnet the new revelations highlight an "urgent" need for the government to take Justice O'Connor's recommendations seriously.
Waldman also says a new oversight body with "the power to review the conduct of the intelligence agency is also needed."
"Because these new revelations reveal again that they are not under control and it poses a great risk to our civil liberties if we don't take action now," he said.
In 2002, the U.S. suspected Arar of being an extremist Islamic terrorist and deported him to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured into making false confessions that he was involved with al Qaeda.
The RCMP had passed information onto U.S. authorities that labelled Arar as having links to al Qaeda. The commission led by O'Connor found the RCMP's information was wrong. Arar was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and the federal government agreed to pay him $12.5 million in compensation.
Members of the commission and Arar himself argued before the Federal Court in the spring that more of the report should be made public. Justice Simon Noel eventually ruled that some of the portions that had been withheld can be released.
Under Canadian law, only information that damages national security, defence or international relations, can be withheld.
With a report from CTV's David Akin in Ottawa