RANGER AGAINST WAR: Skinner's Out of the Box <

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Skinner's Out of the Box

Did you hear the sport
On the TV holding forth

About war, nukes and victory?

He was dreaming of course

but he runs the Air Force

And he's talking about World War Three

--No Hiding Place
, Stephen Stills

The wheels of justice grind slowly but surely, sometimes.

Richard L. Skinner, Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told two House subcommittees last Thursday that the Mahar Arar extraordinary rendition case involved "very questionable" actions by United States government officials and was re-opened last year following the receipt of new "classified" information.

'could not rule out' that Mr. Arar was sent to Syria with the intention of having him questioned under torture about possible connections to terrorists."

Mahar Arar, a telecommunications engineer who had immigrated to Canada from his native Syria as a teenager, was detained in September 2002 as he tried to change planes at Kennedy International Airport while flying back to Canada from Switzerland. U.S. officials sent Arar against his will to Syria, which "habitually tortures" its prisoners, because his name name was on an immigration watch list.

"The Justice Department’s ethics office is reviewing a decision in 2002 by department officials to send a Canadian citizen to Syria
, where he was tortured, American officials said Thursday.

"A Justice Department spokesman, Peter A. Carr, said that its inquiry, by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, was begun in March 2007 and was examining the role of department lawyers in expelling Maher Arar to Syria, which has long been identified by the State Department as habitually using torture on prisoners (Justice Dept. Investigation Deportation to Syria.)"

U.S. officials had no legal basis to do anything except deny him entry to the U.S. Instead, Mr. Arar was kidnapped and illegally detained in New York without arrest warrants.

The investigation challenges the decision to send him to Syria, "suggesting that he could have been sent on to Canada or returned to Switzerland, where his flight had originated."

"The IG’s inquiry, which began in 2003, ran into resistance both inside the DHS and from other agencies, Mr. Skinner said, delaying its progress. He said his department initially sought to keep the entire report secret but agreed to his request to release most of it."

As Mr. Arar's flight originated in Zurich, why was the manifest not vetted via computer before the plane left the ground? This should be protocol for keeping people on watch lists out of the U.S. Isn't this why we spend the big bucks, to upgrade DHS communication and computers?

An afterthought: Would any al-Qaeda terrorist or agent travel under a passport or name that is known to U.S. intelligence or security officials? I mean, even Mujibar in India who mans the outsourced Sony tech problem line knows that if he calls himself "Shawn" or "Steve" we are more likely to receive him well.

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Blogger BadTux said...

Unfortunately we do not yet have the capability to vet the manifest before the plane leaves the ground. The problem is that people can check in at the last moment (have you ever done a ticket itinerary change at a major airport due to a flight being cancelled or changed?), so they know who's actually on the plane sometimes only 15 minutes before the plane leaves. Because Europeans don't need a visa to visit the United States, they don't have to file any paperwork beforehand asking permission, they just need to have their passport in hand.

One thing that DHS is trying to do now is to get the European airlines to allow only vetted and cleared people onto the airplanes, i.e., pre-clear the people on the manifest. The Europeans are in an uproar about that proposal, and state that if the United States is going to impose what they view as a visa program upon them, they in turn are going to require visas of U.S. travellers to Europe.

Note that the U.S. has limited ability to force the Europeans to do anything. They can deny European airlines permission to land in the United States, but then the Europeans can deny American airlines permission to land in Europe. To say that this would cause squawking and screaming at major levels is an understatement... this is a trade war that the Busheviks can't win, because we need the Europeans more than they need us nowdays. Remember, the Eurozone is now the world's largest economy -- not the United States. And so empires end, not with a bang, but with a whimper, as their economies degrade due to endless wars of foreign conquest (wars never add productive capacity to an economy, only destructive capacity, and any investment in destructive capacity is investment that cannot be made in productive capacity, as Ike pointed out over 50 years ago)...

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 12:08:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Just as an aside -- 60% of my employer's sales are into Europe. Less than 30% of our sales are into the United States. We're trying to increase U.S. sales, but frankly there just isn't too many American companies that can afford the best technology anymore -- or who have management who understand the importance of having the best technology. That's what happens when an economy invests in destructive capacity rather than productive capacity... it degrades as its underlying infrastructure degrades. (My employer provides telecommunications infrastructure, won't give further details).

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 12:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

Perhaps another reason they didn't take him off the plane in Europe is they WANTED to take him off in the US and send him to Syria. Maybe the paranoia is just that stupid "grab every Arabic sounding named guy"? I don't know, but I see more stupid than I can deal with in every one of these cases.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 11:58:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous tw said...

The Canadian government took alot of grief from Canadians over this case for not standing up for Canadians. Prime Minister Steven Harper finally apologised to Mr Arar and awarded him $10.5 million in damages and $1 million for legal fees. The question still remains why even if there were reasons to consider him suspicious, the US govt shipped him th Syria (gee, I thought they were our enemy) where he was tortured instead of Canada for investigation and prosecution.

The other story that has Canadians up in arms is the Omar Khadar case. Omar comes from a known al Qeada family. He has spent about 5yrs at Gitmo after he was captured in a firefight at the age of 15 in Afghanistan. He's accused of killing and American soldier with a grenade in a firefight. Initally he was said to be the only person alive in the room where he was captured but recent released info points to another person alive in the room. Omar was 15 at the time of his capture but apparently the US doesn't abide by UN Child Soldiers treaty. His lawyers have been denied access to evidence against him, the usual Gitmo stuff! Omar is a Toronto born Canadian.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seen in Canada as GWB's lap dog now that Tony Blair has crawled away from the scene. As much as I dislike Harper, I must give him credit this week as he apologised for more than one century of abuses against Native Canadians for Canada's role in the Indian Residential School System. The government took native children away from their parents, putting them in schools which basically tried to kill the Indian in the child. These schools were modelled after US Indian Industrial Schools of the period.

Now if only GWB could say he was wrong and apologise for anything!

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 9:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should Bush apologize? He didn't hurt anybody or their property. I don't think you can blame him if he just says "Do this, do that," and people take what he says out of context and act upon it. That's their fault, not his. I mean, it's not like he can just use the law to silence people who are a potential trouble source for his administration. I think we're getting the truth from the U.S. government, or as close an approximation to the truth as is humanly possible.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Same price as a blowjob from Jenna Bush, by the way.

Friday, June 13, 2008 at 3:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

TW, i have a real hard time figuring out why Khadar is in a prison.His act was on the battlefield and he was engaging the ultimate belligerant- a SF soldier.This death is regretable and sad BUT he was an invading soldier.I've been meaning to revisit this scenario and now you've taken me off the hook.
And of course saying what is fact again labels us soft on terrorism. jim

Friday, June 13, 2008 at 1:09:00 PM GMT-5  

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