Second Thots

Sometimes one has to step back, take pause, and have some "second thots"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


The Arar story continued?


I'm not quite sure what to make of the fact that the U.S. government is adamant about not exonerating Maher Arar. On the one hand, Canada has conducted a full public inquiry into the matter and has concluded that Arar is an innocent man. On the other hand, the Americans say they have other information that leads them to believe that Arar isn't quite as innocent as we think. That other information was not made available to the public inquiry — or to anyone else publicly, for that matter.

Given nothing else, I believe in Arar's innocence. I'll take a public inquiry to secret information any day. However, the disparity in positions on Arar does raise some questions. Either we conducted a public inquiry into the Maher Arar case without all the available information, and drew conclusions based on half-truths, or the Americans are lying. Given that I'm not as quick to believe the latter as some Canadians are, there's something wrong with the big picture here, and I don't know if a public inquiry took enough of a look to draw us a complete version of it.

Again, Arar is innocent. That's what we know. But why am I not as confident in that truth as I was yesterday?

I suppose I should also note that the kinds of assumptions I'm making about the American authorities are the same kinds of assumptions I once made about the Canadian authorities. That is, I once thought that the RCMP was telling us the truth on Arar. They weren't. So, given that people in power can lie to us about secret information, it's certainly a possibility that that's what's happening with Arar south of the border.

As much as the Americans seem to be making a point of saying they actually do have other information on Arar, we've heard that story before, haven't we?

UPDATE (10:58 am): The Toronto Sun has an interesting solution to this problem:

Harper or his Public Security Minister Stockwell Day ought to demand from the Americans that they either come clean about additional evidence they have against Arar, or if they have none, drop his name from the watchlist.

To do otherwise smacks of harassment, and the poor man has suffered enough of that.

The problem with this is the apparent need for secrecy surrounding the information the Americans say they have on Arar. This is a national security matter for them. They may have reasons for keeping it secret.

Now, I suppose they could tell the Canadian government this information behind closed doors. Yet that would also raise problems for our own government. How can it ignore the conclusions of a public inquiry in favour of secret information given to it by a foreign government? Why didn't we get this secret information sooner? And why would we get it now, given that we didn't get it before?

It's a troubling matter to resolve, one made even tougher by the nature of the information the Americans say they have on Arar.

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