Maher Arar, Bradley Manning and the Sad State of the U.S. Justice System

Guest post by Chase Madar, a lawyer in New York. His next book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, will be published by O/R Books in the fall.

What the US government did to Maher Arar is certainly atrocious. But is our government’s treatment of Arar so very different from what it routinely does to its own citizens, minus the air travel and exotic outsourcing? After all, many of the atrocities that we have committed in the course of our Global War on Terror find easy analogs in our everyday “normal” justice system.

Take Omar Khadr, captured at the age of 15 in Afghanistan, tortured during interrogation and, after years of pretrial detention, convicted of a wholly invented “war crime”. This is surely an appalling persecution of a child soldier. But here in the United States we have young men doing life without parole for crimes committed when they were 13, and who have been treated no less roughly every step of the way. Is the Khadr prosecution consistent with American values? You bet. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Tweet @BarackObama and @StateDept Demanding Apology for Torture

We’ve spent the entire month of June, Torture Awareness Month, focusing on the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was spirited off to Syria to be tortured, all under the eye of the U.S. government. Now it’s time to turn up the pressure on President Obama, Congress and the State Department to begin to make amends for Arar’s terrible mistreatment — starting with an apology!

Activists are speaking out in support of torture survivor Maher Arar from all sides, between protesting on the ground, organizing house parties to discuss Arar’s story, and signing our online petition. But why not use all the tools at Amnesty’s cyber-disposal, including Twitter? It’s not just for disgraced politicians and Justin Bieber fans anymore: It can also be a really effective tool for Amnesty’s activism!

Today, join us in a Twitter campaign targeting President Obama and Michael Posner of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

5 Books Tell of US Torture in Post 9/11 World

Ok, I know it sounds depressing to pick a book about torture for your summer beach reading, but the following books that tell the tale of US torture since 9/11 are actually compelling reads that will inspire your human rights activism during Torture Awareness Month and beyond.

I know there are plenty of other indispensable books against torture–please share your suggestions in the comments section; one random commentor will receive an autographed copy of former US military interrogator Matthew Alexander’s “Kill or Capture” (number 3 below).

One other thing: if you buy books (or anything else) from via this referral link, Amnesty International will receive between 5 – 10% of the sale.


9/11 Families Speak Out Against Torture

By Adele Welty, with Marianne Stone, of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

On September 11th, my son, a Firefighter intent on saving lives, lost his life at the World Trade Center.

I am a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group born out of the grief of losing family members in the attacks of 9/11 that promotes nonviolent options in the pursuit of justice rather than revenge.


The Dirty Secret About ‘Clean’ Torture

By Darius Rejali, professor and Chair of political science at Reed College

Maher Arar

Imagine if you were arrested in a foreign country and for nine days the police beat you with a shredded electric cable. Now imagine, three days after the beatings stop, the police take you to meet your country’s embassy counsel. The police threaten you with more torture if you speak of the beatings.

Fearful of their threats, you hope the scars of torture will reveal the injustice. But your counsel sees no marks and you are led back to your cell where the torture continues.

This is what happened to Canadian Maher Arar.  His story should be a warning to anyone who thinks that the evidence of torture is always obvious. As watchdog groups discover the signs of torture, the torturers evolve their techniques. As we go into the twenty first century, torture is changing and concerned citizens need to keep pace.


Guantánamo’s Children: The Wikileaked Testimonies

By Almerindo E. Ojeda of The Guantánamo Testimonials Project

The Guantanamo detention facility at sunrise, January 7, 2011.

A couple of months ago, the transparency organization Wikileaks began to release Detainee Assessment Briefs and other classified documents for all 779 Guantánamo prisoners.

As a consequence of these wikileaked releases, military documents now in the public domain acknowledge that fifteen children were imprisoned, at some time or another, at Guantánamo.

This would be three more than the twelve the State Department acknowledged to the public after the earlier report on the subject put out by the Guantánamo Testimonials Project, and seven more than the eight the State Department reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.


Three Words of Omission When It Comes to Torture

By Matthew Alexander, former senior military interrogator

Matthew Alexander

Since the killing of Osama bin Laden last month in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the torture supporters have been out in full force to credit the success to Bush Administration policies such as torture.

Retired General Michael Hayden wrote in the Wall Street Journal that to deny that waterboarding provided important intelligence information is the equivalent of being a birther.  And Retired Army Major General Patrick Brady, a Medal of Honor Recipient from Vietnam, argued that waterboarders are heroes in a recent Op-Ed in the San Antonio online forum.  They join the ranks of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Marc Thiessen, Michael Mukasey, and, of course, the former President himself, George W. Bush.

But I challenge you to search all the articles and interviews done by these men for three key phrases: 1) World War II interrogators, 2) Long-Term, and 3) George Washington.  You won’t find them.  And there’s a reason why.


Stand Up For Torture Victim Maher Arar

Maher Arar

Maher Arar, ©Amnesty International

Today we mark the beginning of Torture Awareness Month by highlighting the case of Maher Arar.

Arar, a Canadian telecommunications engineer, was detained by US immigration while transiting New York on his way home from a family holiday and plunged into a Kafkaesque nightmare of torture and abuse.

In September 2002 Arar was traveling through JFK airport when he was pulled aside by US officials. Canadian police had generated a deeply flawed intelligence report based on a brief social encounter in Ottawa between Arar and ‘a person of interest.’ US officials accepted it without question and Arar’s nightmare began.

Despite his citizenship and residency in Canada, Arar was handed over illegally to the Syrian government – a country whose human rights record the United States has routinely condemned. He was held for 374 days before he was finally released and returned home: