Maher Arar: the RCMP plays CYA

Here’s what seems to be a good, competent piece of journalism on the Maher Arar case.

And here’s what’s happening to the journalist.

And that’s why we must never, never, ever consider anything that resembles an Official Secrets Act. All leaks of classified information are not created equal.

Meantime, Kevin Drum points to a thorough series of posts on the Maher Arar affair at Obsidian Wings.

Apparently Maher Arar plans to sue the U.S. in federal court. If (as seems grossly unlikely at first blush to my inexpert eye) the case were to make it past a summary judgment motion, the discovery proceedings could be fascinating.

Update Thanks to readers for several corrections. I’ve made the trivial ones silently above. Substantive points:

1. Apparently the sources, rather than the reporter, are the targets of the investigation. Still seems like a bad idea.

2. I should have said “12 (b) (6) motion” rather than “summary judgment” above. A summary judgment motion comes after discovery, not before.

3. A reader who should know tells me that the statutes in question make Arar’s case a strong one out of the starting gate. The government would have to claim either that the torture didn’t occur, or that it was is exempt from judicial consideration as the sovereign act of the Syrian government and that the U.S. government justifiably relied on Syrian assurances that the torture would not take place. Any of those claims would seem to fail the giggle test, not to say the sniff test. I’m happy to be corrected on this point, as I’d love to see a nice juicy trial in which the Bush Administration had to defend sending victims to Syrian torturers.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com