"The U.S. needs to come clean"

There's more evidence corroborating the use of secret U.S. flights to the Middle East, where detainees in the war on terrorism say they were tortured.

By Mark Follman
Published March 30, 2005 8:40PM (EST)

There's more evidence that the Bush administration has been using private jets (including one associated with the Boston Red Sox) to "render" suspects in the war on terrorism into the hands of brutal foreign interrogators. The Times reports today on the case of Maher Arar, a 35-year-old Canadian who was nabbed by U.S. officials at JFK airport in Sept. 2002 and shipped off to Syria, where he says he was held for 10 months in a dank, tiny cell and brutally beaten with a metal cable. Arar is suing the U.S.; in 1998 Congress made it illegal to extradite detainees to foreign countries known to carry out torture in their prisons.

According to the Times, "federal aviation records examined by The New York Times appear to corroborate Mr. Arar's account of his flight, during which, he says, he sat chained on the leather seats of a luxury executive jet as his American guards watched movies and ignored his protests. The tale of Mr. Arar, the subject of a yearlong inquiry by the Canadian government, is perhaps the best documented of a number of cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which suspects have accused the United States of secretly delivering them to other countries for interrogation under torture."

The Justice Department, according to the Times, says the U.S. government has no comment on the case.

President Bush has said it is United States policy neither to engage in torture nor to deliver prisoners to countries where they are likely to be tortured. A number of CIA officials say otherwise.

Says Barbara Olshansky, Deputy Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Arar: "With each piece of evidence that comes to light from investigations here in the U.S. and the public inquiry in Canada, another stone falls into place in the foundation of governmental responsibility for his inhumane and illegal treatment. The U.S. needs to come clean about the scope of their program of rendition and what has happened to those who fell under its policy."

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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