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The U.S. wins the right to abduct innocent people with impunity

By Glenn Greenwald| June 14, 2010

The Supreme Court today denied a petition of review from Maher Arar, the Canadian and Syrian citizen who was abducted by the U.S. Government at a stopover at JFK Airport when returning to Canada in 2002, held incommunicado for two weeks, and then rendered to Syria, where he spent the next 10 months being tortured, even though — as everyone acknowledges — he was guilty of absolutely nothing.  Arar sued the U.S. Government for what was done to him, and last November, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of his lawsuit on the ground that courts have no right to interfere in these decisions of the Executive Branch.  That was the decision which the U.S. Supreme Court let stand today, ending Arar’s attempt to be compensated for what was done to him.

I’ve written in detail several times about Arar’s case, including in November when the appellate court upheld dismissal of his lawsuit; see here for how extreme his treatment has been at the hands of the U.S. Government, which was most responsible for his harrowing nightmare and then spent years fighting to deny him any remedy for what was done.  I won’t reiterate those points here, as everything I have to say about the Supreme Court’s actions today was said in that November post (read the last part of that post, where I excerpted the court’s description of what was done to Arar).  But I do want to highlight one aspect of this episode:

Just compare how the American and Canadian Governments responded to what everyone agrees was this horrific injustice.  The Canadians, who cooperated with the U.S. in Arar’s abduction, conducted a sweeping investigation of what happened, and then publicly “issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured,” and made clear he had done absolutely nothing wrong.  Then, Canada’s Prime Minister personally and publicly apologized to Arar, and announced that Canada would compensate him with a payment of $ 8.5 million.

By stark contrast, the U.S. Government, which played a far more active role in his abduction and rendition to Syria, has never apologized to Arar (though individual members of Congress have).  It has never clearly acknowledged wrongdoing (the only time it even hinted at this was when Condoleezza Rice called U.S. conduct in this case “imperfect” — you think? — and generously added: “We do not think this case was handled as it should have been”).  In fact, it continuously did the opposite of providing accountability:  in response to Arar’s efforts to seek damages from the U.S. Government, the U.S. raised — under two successive administrations — a slew of technical arguments to persuade American courts not to hear his case at all, including the argument that what was done to Arar involved “state secrets” that prevented a judicial adjudication of his claims.  The U.S. even continued to ban Arar from entering the U.S. long after it was acknowledged that he had done nothing wrong, thus preventing him for years from appearing before Congress or in the U.S. to talk about what was done to him.  Indeed, after the Bush administration spent years arguing that courts were barred from hearing Arar’s case on the ground of “state secrets,” the Obama administration embraced those same arguments and then urged the Supreme Court not to hear his appeal.

As the Center for Constitutional Rights pointed out today:

The Obama administration could have settled the case, recognizing the wrongs done to Mr. Arar as Canada has done. . . . Yet the Obama administration chose to come to the defense of Bush administration officials, arguing that even if they conspired to send Maher Arar to torture, they should not be held accountable by the judiciary.

So congratulations to the U.S. for winning the right to wrongfully abduct people and send them to their torture with total impunity.  What a ringing statement about our country’s willingness to right the wrongs it commits and to provide access to our courts to those whose lives we devastate with our behavior.  Andrew Sullivan today referred to “the cult of the inerrant leader”:  the inability and refusal of our political class to acknowledge wrongdoing, apologize for it, and be held accountable.  The Maher Arar case is a pathological illustration of that syndrome.

June 14, 2010 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite

9 Comments

  1. The SCrockOTUS is nothing but a gang of corporate lawyers.

    Any nation that would stand for a state of affairs where a gaggle of robed quacks, unelected by anybody and unaccountable to anybody outside of DC, gets to have the last say in a legal system, deserves whatever the fuck it gets.

    Comment by Big M | June 14, 2010

  2. The Supreme Court is like a small insect relying on surface tension to keep it on the water’s surface. At some point, having approved every crime and injustice of its host government, it will be recognized and judged irrelevant– then, like a small bug, it will be dispensed with and allowed to sink.

    Comment by Pseudolus | June 14, 2010

  3. The Supreme Court is composed of time-serving flunkeys

    Comment by henry | June 14, 2010

  4. A long time ago, in a Universe, far, far away, was this thing called the U.S. Constitution, and it’s buddy, the Bill of Rights. Before that, another gizmo called the Magna Carta. What the hell happened to these things?

    Oh, I forgot. The Bush son of a bush, decided that the U.S. Constitution was; “just another goddamned piece of paper” when several not yet bought off or blackmailed Senators in his office, decided to challenge his new “ahm da friggin presdink, and ahm makin all dem dere rules up as I goez along..” tripe of his.

    And now, we have Barry Soetoro. He’s a unique piece of crap in this never ending puppetancy ascendance into the now no longer disputably a “House of Ill Repute” which ten or twenty or fifty thousand bucks donations can buy you a night in any one of the bedrooms there…probably inclusive of the illegitimate puppet’s room.

    SCOTUS, schmotus! We had at one time a government with ‘3’ branches, all of which were allegedly there to ‘check’ the other ‘2’ should something go horribly wrong in our government and any one branch decide the other two were either ‘irrelevant’ or ‘not needed’ to further a political agenda…whether it be ‘inside’ the coverage of the U.S. Constitution, or OUTSIDE IT!

    well, we now have an executive branch that has nullified both the SCOTUS and the Legislative Branch, with things called SIGNING STATEMENTS and unrestricted use of SECRET, undisclosed to the public, Executive Orders.

    One of which is N.S.P.D. 51. And, H.S.P.D. 20, on top of that.

    And those got re-inflated and polished up by Barry Soetoro on Sept 14, 2009.

    We are in undeclared MARTIAL LAW now, and unfortunately for We The People, we neither know who is in ‘de-facto’ control of anything in the U.S. any longer, nor do we have the ability under the wholly co-opted MSM, to find out.

    Thanks, B.S.! You’ll go down in history as being the man who absolutely flushed the Constitution down the toilet, and with it, the Bill of Rights. And, sadly, all semblances of RULE OF LAW, as well.

    we are now a banana republic, in which an oil company has more authority than the federal government does.

    because, as I just said, the federal government is no longer running the show. Continuity of Government secret edicts are in place, and therefore, we all might just as well be in the ‘Twilight Zone’ from here on in.

    Comment by THERE USED TO BE THIS LITTLE TECHNICALITY CALLED 'RULE-OF-LAW' THAT USED TO APPLY, AND ANOTHER THING CALLED HABEAS CORPUS, WHAT HAPPENED TO THOSE THINGS?? | June 14, 2010

    • Actually, the CONstitution, which was created in a criminal conspiracy, isn’t legally binding on anybody, and never has been, and that’s why the crooks in DC do what they do, because they know it isn’t legally enforcable. How could it be? It’s just some pieces of paper that nobody ever signed. And even if they had signed it, how in hell could it legally bind everybody in this country 200 years down the road? Think about it.

      Only fools could possibly believe that criminals will be foiled by a set of papers. The fix was in from the beginning, and that’s why Patrick Henry returned to Virginia while the CONstitutional convention was still ongoing, stating that he “smelled a rat” in Philadelphia.

      The so-called federal government is nothing but a criminal syndicate, and has been for well over a century. Anybody who participates, in any way, shape or form, in this perpetual charade called federal elections, is pounding the last nails into this country’s coffin. Withdraw any and all support from this mafia on steroids, and watch how quickly it collapses.

      Comment by Big M | June 15, 2010

      • Actually, if you read the federalist papers, you can clearly see how so many of the heavy hitters who ‘created’ the U.S. federal entity we know and love today in Amer’ka, had a lot of misgivings about concentration of so much power in so few hands. And, to be honest, they were right. Anytime you have a bunch of oligarch’s making life and death decisions for people they neither know, or even care about, you can rest assured that not only will the inevitable ‘corruption’ sink in, but also, over time, the old adage; “absolute power corrupts absolutely” becomes woefully clear. Right now, we have a federal apparatus which is ostensibly manned up by gangsters and knaves, and these mafiosi are running the nation like a cheap sicilian whore house. But I concur with all that you have stated, strictly because thru Amer’kan history, there’s no significant proof of any adhesion to the U.S. CONstitution, or Bill of Rights, because all of these smokescreen tools to mollify and smoke the bees in the electorate, worked to the extent that it allowed unchecked raping and pillaging and hubris beyond all imagining to rule instead of any true RULE OF LAW in Amer’ka.

        So we are in total agreement, actually!

        Comment by all governnments are intrinsically evil by their very nature | June 15, 2010

  5. The high levels in government are completely and totally corrupt. The only way to stop it is “we the people” must take action. It is our duty as Americans to get rid of the elite in government causing these problem. A government can be no better than the people that elected it. Time to put down the ipods, turn of american idol, and start paying attention to what is going on in Washington and doing something to stop the corruption.

    Comment by spirittoo | June 14, 2010

  6. If one simply makes the mental adjustment to view the American government as a corporation instead of a government, then behaviour such as this makes perfect sense. Companies do not admit problems. Think BP.

    Comment by James | June 15, 2010

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