Yes, the White House has backed off the torture bill, but that hasn’t slowed down the House Republicans at all. Here’s the “Dear Colleague” from Ed Markey of Massachusetts on what’s coming up this week.
October 7, 2004
The Rules Committee has refused to make in order any amendment to strike the “torture outsourcing” language contained in Sections 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10. Section 3032 allows the Department of Homeland Security to deport certain foreign persons to countries where they are likely to face torture,
and Section 3033 allows for foreign persons to be deported to any country of the Secretary’s choosing — regardless of whether it is the country
where they live or hold citizenship.
Instead, the Rule for H.R. 10 makes in order a Hostettler amendment which would leave Section 3033 intact, and would alter Section 3032 in a way that would still allow certain foreign persons to be subjected to torture.
I urge you to vote NO on the Hostettler amendment.
The Hostettler amendment would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to detain certain foreign persons that, “in the Secretary’s unreviewable discretion,” the Secretary has determined to be “a specially dangerous alien and should be detained until removed.” This would allow such persons to be held behind bars indefinitely, with no recourse to a court or other independent fact finder empowered to review the legal and evidentiary basis for the Secretary’s determinations.
The amendment also provides that the “Secretary of State shall seek diplomatic assurances that such alien shall be protected if removed from the
United States.” What that means is that the State Department is supposed to seek diplomatic assurances from the country where a judge just found the person would be tortured that they would not torture him (even if the U.S. has no particular interest in the person being interrogated). The
potential for bad faith on the part of repressive governments here is enormous.
If a foreign government is so intent on torturing someone that a United States Government factfinder concludes that the likelihood of such
torture is “substantial,” do we really believe that diplomatic assurances from such a country are worth the paper they’re written on (assuming they’re even written)? Are we really going to hang our reputation for leading the fight against torture on the word of the Cuban government? On Syria? On Sudan?
These assurances have proved to be unreliable in practice: we already have seen examples where assurances were sought by the U.S. and then
disregarded by the receiving country resulting in torture.
In 2002, Mahar Arar, a Sryian-born Canadian citizen was deported to Syria, where he was detained and reportedly tortured. The Washington Post
(see articles below) has reported that while Syria provided “diplomatic assurances” that Arar would not be mistreated, these assurances proved
worthless. America should not be outsourcing torture to countries like Syria, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia.
Please vote NO on the Hostettler amendment and, if the Menendez Substitute is defeated, NO on H.R. 10.
Edward J. Markey
In case you had any doubt about what such assurances are worth, here’s a hint:
By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 20, 2003; Page A24
U.S. officials said yesterday that they decided to send a Syrian-born Canadian citizen to Syria last year only after the CIA received assurances
from Syria that it would not torture the man.
Maher Arar, recently freed from prison, said he pleaded with U.S. authorities not to send him to Syria precisely because he believed he would
be tortured. Arar has said he was tortured with cables and electrical cords during his 10-month imprisonment.
U.S. law strictly prohibits sending people — even on national security grounds — to a country where it is likely they will be tortured.
Yesterday, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed that the Syrian assurances allowed
them to legally send Arar to Syria.
Syrian has said it did not torture Arar. “We welcome statements by the Syrian Embassy, as it is fully consistent with the assurances the U.S. government received prior to his removal” from the United States, the Justice Department spokesman said.
In a Nov. 7 speech, President Bush said Syria has left its people “a legacy of torture, oppression, misery and ruin.” Spokesmen at the Justice
Department and the CIA declined to comment on why they believed the Syrian assurances to be credible.
Arar, who holds Canadian and Syrian citizenship, was en route to Canada, where he lives, from Tunisia when he was detained on Sept. 26, 2002, at
John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York because he was on a terrorism watch list. That Oct. 7, Larry D. Thompson, then acting attorney general,
ordered his deportation to Syria on national security grounds.
Canadian Solicitor General Wayne Easter said publicly for the first time yesterday that Canada contributed information that led to Arar’s arrest.
Easter discussed the case yesterday in a meeting in Washington with Attorney General John D. Ashcroft. After the meeting, Easter told reporters: “This
information didn’t just come from Canada alone. The information comes from sources globally.”
Arar’s arrest and deportation have been heavily criticized in Canada, where government opposition leaders have demanded an investigation. Some
Canadians have said the case has raised fears and outrage that a Canadian traveling through the United States could be deported to a country known for torture.
Canadian officials said last month that they did not take part in the decision to send Arar to Syria.