Monday, March 20, 2006

We are all Maher Arar

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." - Thomas Paine, Dissertation on the First Prinicples of Government

Whenever someone speaks out about some injustice that has been committed in the name of fighting terrorism the most common response is, "they're terrorists, they don't deserve any rights." A close second would be, "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." Even were we to accept the first premise as true it would still not justify violating the rule of law, because the second premise is false, or at least, were the second premise true it would mean we would have no need of the Bill of Rights or our Constitution. I assume that most Americans are not willing to put that sort of trust in the hands of their government.

At the Atheist Ethicist, Alonzo Fyfe writes

Basically, if, as Gonzales argues, the Constitution gives President Bush the authority to sign secret executive orders suspending the 4th Amendment, then he can suspend any Amendment. If he can replace the Judicial branch of government with his own Justice Department, and rewrite legislation as he sees fit, then he can eliminate (in practice if not in fact) the Judicial and Legislative branches of government.

Effectively, it is an argument that states that the Constitution does not exist except insofar as it pleases the President to use it.

As further proof of this, U.S. News and World Report has revealed that the Bush Administration is using the same arguments to claim the right to conduct warrantless physical searches of the home and business of “terror suspects.” That is to say, if you are a “terror suspect”, government issues can come into your house and look around without going to a judge and proving probable cause.

That is to say, government agents can look through your home and business after calling you a “terror suspect” without having to show anybody any good reason to believe you really are a “terror suspect”.

We Are All “Terror Suspects”
If that is true, then we are also all Maher Arar

In a startling, ominous decision ignored by most of the press around the country Federal District Judge David Trager, in the Eastern District of New York, has dismissed a lawsuit by a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, who, during a stopover at Kennedy Airport on the way home to Canada after vacation, was kidnapped by CIA agents.

Arar was flown to Syria, where he was tortured for nearly a year in solitary confinement in a three-by-six-foot cell ("like a grave," he said). He became, internationally, one of the best-known victims of the CIA's extraordinary renditions the sending of suspected terrorists to countries known for torturing their prisoners.

Released after his ordeal, Arar has not been charged with any involvement in terrorism, or anything else, by Syria or the United States. Stigmatized by his notoriety, still traumatized, unemployed, he is back in Canada, where the Canadian Parliament had opened an extensive and expensive public inquiry into his capture and torture. The United States refuses to cooperate in any way with this investigation.

Maher Arar sued for damages in federal court here (Maher Arar v. John Ashcroft, formerly Attorney General of the United States, et al.). Representing Arar for the New York based Center for Constitutional Rights, David Cole predicts, and I agree, that if Judge Trager's ruling is upheld in an appeal to the Supreme Court, the CIA and other American officials will be told "they have a green light to do to others what they did to Arar" no matter what international or U.S. laws are violated in the name of national security.
Boston Legal has the courage to say what needs to be said about this.

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