Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen was arrested at a stopover in JFK in New York and deported to Syria by the US government. It seems to be unclear how they decided he was a "suspected terrorist" but it took close to a year in a prison in Syria and a lot of torture for them to decide that he was OK to be sent back to Canada. Obviously, it's probably easier for a Syrian national to get on a "list" than a Japanese, but this really scary. They say he had had a relationship with another suspected terrorist who is also being imprisoned and tortured now in Syria. He says he barely knew the guy.

So what does this mean for us? If we meet someone, we should not "become friendly" with them until we are certain that they are not a suspected terrorist. What does this mean? We need to make sure they don't hang out with other suspected terrorists. So if you believe in six degrees, it's likely at some point you will be a suspected terrorist.

How do they know if you hang out with someone? Friendster? LinkedIn? Your email? We need to be VERY careful about the privacy of not just the content of our communication, but the privacy of who we are in touch with, often called sigint, or signal intelligence.

Seriously though, this will cause a chilling effect on meeting, calling, emailing or otherwise "being in touch with" anyone who you don't know very well that could land you on the "suspected terrorist" list.

For articles about the Maher Arar case, just do a google news search. The article where he finally talks to the media directly is here.

25 Comments

This is one of those things that makes me feel justified if not slightly disgusted with myself for being a paranoid. Yes, you should choose your friends carefully, but you knew this aready right?

Completely aside from this particular case, I think exercising good judgement about my associations is a reasonable way to live. This has been even more of an issue living abroad where I do not always have the correct frame of reference to judge people. Sure it would be nice if we could just be trusting, but I dont think that is possible. Id rather not spell out the obvious and politically uncorrect realities of this issue here, but if one exercises care, the six degrees thing should not apply (yet).

Not surprisingly, this is a huge story here in Canada. It appears that the information that initially identified Maher Arar as a terror suspect came from Canadian authorities (either the RCMP or CSIS). Furthermore, Canadian consular officials apparently knew he was going to be deported to Syria, and did not to prevent it. There is a second Syrian-Canadian, Abdullah Almalki, still being held in Syria under apparently worse conditions. They were apparently linked by a leasing agreement that Arar witnessed for Almalki - provided by Canadian authorities!

"... a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen ...."

What does this mean? I assume he was a Syrian who took Canadian citizenship, and not vice versa?

Does Canada not require renunciation of previous citizenship like the U.S.? If not, what exactly is a dual citizen and how does his rights differ from a mono-citizen? Is this like Americans who stealthily become Israeli citizens without telling the State Department and continue to maintain U.S. passports? Or on the other hand like Chinese who take U.S. citizenship and renounce Chinese citizenship, but get ignored by the Chinese government and are kidnapped for military service when they return to China?

Given that he felt that he stood to be tortured in Syria and had taken citizenship in Canada, why did he maintain Syrian citizenship?--D'oh! It seems like he would have avoided this situation if he had just made up his mind to become a Canadian and dropped his Syrian citizenship and passport. Under the circumstances, if he was a citizen of both countries, the authorities were within their rights to deport him to Syria, especially if Canada didn't really want him. Certainly maintaining dual citizenship is something that is going to raise suspicion and is not a really bright thing to do.

Lots of people have dual or multiple citizenships, it's not uncommon - sometimes by choice, sometimes by birth. Canada does not require renunciation of previous held citizenships. Further, U.S. citizens are free to obtain any other citizenships they wish without losing their U.S. citizenship, although the State Dept. does advise against it. I only researched all this as a U.S. citizen living in Canada who has applied for Canadian citizenship.

(Oh yeah, almost forgot, many countries do not recognize the renunciation required when one becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen.)

The U.S. is a signatory to a treaty which requires them to deport an individual to the country of that individual's choice, although the destination country has the right to refuse acceptance. Also, the U.S. has a treaty obligation to not deport someone to a nation known to practice torture.

So is everyone just assuming he was a terrorist? That remains to be seen. In response to Chris_B, you'd rather us all be paranoid and skiddish about everyone we meet rather than look at the govt. as beginning a new era of "the black list"? you'd rather live your life in fear than fight for your right to not be wrongly accused of a crime or being an accessory to a crime? i'd question my govt., especially the present admin., before i start questioning everyone in my friendster group.

Just to try and answer some questions:

"Does Canada not require renunciation of previous citizenship like the U.S.?"

No.

"If not, what exactly is a dual citizen and how does his rights differ from a mono-citizen?"

His rights are the same, although they are not always properly recognized as such by other countries.

"Under the circumstances, if he was a citizen of both countries, the authorities were within their rights to deport him to Syria"

Quite the contrary, given that Syria is known to use torture and deny prisoners basic rights. You might want to check out something called 'rendition' for more info.

"Certainly maintaining dual citizenship is something that is going to raise suspicion and is not a really bright thing to do."

Dual citizenships are perfectly legal, so having one shouldn't expose anyone to unlawful treatment.

Rather than 'being careful who you become friend with', just avoid going to that cesspit, sorry, land of the free

The US requires new citizens to renounce allegiance to their former countries as part of an oath, but not their old citizenship. Having dual citizenship is very common (for example, I'm a Polish citizen and American citizen). In the eyes of the law, there is no distinction made.

Are you kidding..? You are right,.. your thoughts are whacked!

A couple clarifications since there seems to be some confusion :

* Until 1977, the U.S. mandated that any of its citizens with dual-nationality renounce one or the other once they turned 18.

* Following 1977, there was no longer any such requirement. I don't know what the history of that decision is.

Men still have to register with Selective Services at 18 (which is like the short-list for the draft and no fun if you're an angry Canadian boy) and everyone is dutifully required to file income tax every year.

Dual citizens are allowed to vote in most, if not all, elections. I'm a bit fuzzy on the rules for running for office; I don't remember whether the test is dual-nationality or place of birth.

* The Canadian government, to date, doesn't care how many nationalities to hold.

Tanyon young said: "Does Canada not require renunciation of previous citizenship like the U.S.?" It's nothing like that. It's that SYRIA does not allow any person to *renounce* citizenship. Once a Syrian citizen, always a Syrian citizen, whether you like it or not. That's one of the details that makes this such a tragic case. Basically Maher Arar can never escape from Syria--not if the United States is willing to deport him back to that nation without cause, instead of deporting him to the country of his true citizenship, i.e. Canada. As Greg pointed out, the U.S. has a treaty obligation not to deport someone to a nation known to practice torture.

Many Canadian citizens, including government ministers, are now unwilling to travel into or through the United States. I can hardly say I blame them.

I applaud Joi for posting on this subject; however, his posting is disheartening because he appears to merely be wringing his hands and accepting the situation, as is Chris_B. Incidents like this do *not* mean we should all be more careful who we associate with--they mean we should be more careful how we pick our governments! The U.S. government did not have a right to do this to a Canadian citizen any more than it would have had a right to do it to an American citizen. Unfortunately, as a Canadian, I can't change the U.S. government. But those who can, should be acting, not collaborating with illegal and immoral policies out of fear for themselves.

Get a spine, guys. Don't collaborate--resist.

Hey, let's not start patting ourselves on our Canadian backs - Canadian officials were involved in this whole fiasco, and now our government is trying to sweep it under the carpet. Who are these ministers who won't travel in the States, BTW? I must have missed that.

Karl. I agree that the tone of my post was a bit "hand wringing"... I apologize for that. I was trying to point out the privacy issue and the chilling effect. I agree with you that we should try to do something about it. Not being an American citizen, I think the best thing I can do at this point is to blog about this stuff constantly. ;-)

You can also help Beate and Tevor. You can donate money to their struggle and/or write your US Senator or Represenative about it if you are an American. Details are on their blog. Although their case is differerent from Maher's case, it is another case of abuse of foreign nationals at the point of entry into the US. The Maher case is really two issues. Border policy and "suspected terrorist" profiling and the creation and exchange of blacklists. There is a very good paper about terrorist profiling and how it doesn't seem to work.

Abraham Lincoln: "At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume I, "Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum,of Springfield, Illinois (January 27, 1838), p. 109

So, the fundamental of the USA is the Constitution (and within, the Bill of Rights). If a democratic country like the USA starts to deny his own constitution by "outsourcing legal cases" than it makes me think.

and to make it my statement clear, its not just related to the current case.

Anne,

Kindly do think just for a moment before you write. Exercising judgement regarding my personal activities and associations does not automatically extend to being unwilling to give up my rights. If anything, quite the opposite. Knowing someone who has committed a crime or is accused of a crime is not the same as knowing that the person has committed a crime or is accused of committing a crime. If you know in advance that a person is very likely to be suspect of criminal behavior, would you eagerly associate with them? If you are not aware of it already, there are tremendous costs associated with being accused of a crime even if you are never charged and tried. Having seen this first hand, I would rather not go through it myself.

Karl,

Wringing my hands and accepting the situation? No. Looking for more accurate information and points of law why may apply? Yes. I maintain my original opinion regarding how I choose my associates, but you are correct that it is not because of this incident or similar ones.

I also fail to see how "this" implies that "we" should be more careful about choosing our governments. By "we" do you mean Canadians or Americans? Last time I checked, the governments of both our countries were elected by processes generally accepted to be democratic by definition, not military juntas or hereditary kingdoms. Additionally, aside from referendums, citizens of most democracies do not directly choose or have a chance to accept or reject the laws of their land. FYI, even though I no longer reside in the USA, I vote by absentee ballot in American national elections. Just out of curiosity, what are you as a Canadian citizen doing to resist and show that you have a spine? I hope your post was not indicitive of the type of writing contained in your award winning novels, I guess I'll have to buy and read one for myself to find out. ^_^

I thought Japan was one of the only "first world" countries that denies dual/multiple nationalities. That is a pain for my wife and I (one of us will always need a visa), but I heard this is even more annoying for Japanese nationals sent to work in overseas offices for long periods by their employer. Are there any other countries that expressly forbid dual nationalities?

Another example of how foreigner-friendly the Japanese Immigration Department is is the 're-entry permit' system. For foreigners living in Japan a valid visa only allows them one entry into Japan. If you leave Japan on a valid visa then try to return before that visa expires, you will be denied entry. You need to get in effect an additional visa - a "re-entry permit". The only reason for this seems to be to make more money. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought visas were generally of the 'multiple entry' type in other countries.

Unfortunately I don't think anything will change in the near future, judging by Joi's recent post on how the Japanese public perceives foreign tourists to be a threat. Sigh.

peace - oli

Oli: Japan offers permanent residency visas and three-year mulitple reentry permits. The U.S. offers similar. This is enough. All this talk about dual citizenship--frankly, I think there should be very little need for that. Citizenship is who you are. It reflects your deep sense of where you are from and where you most belong and feel at home, your identity, your core cultural values. This doesn't mean you can't travel and live elsewhere, fit in, respect other cultures, immerse yourself in them. But I think 99.99% of people can only have one "citizenship." It's not a convenience thing so you don't have to get a visa, and it shouldn't be.

Washington Post editorial today:

"The harder question is what should be done with a suspected al Qaeda associate in such circumstances. Sending Mr. Arar to Canada, as a practical matter, meant setting him free, since there was little prospect of bringing charges there either. Authorities faced this choice: torture in Syria or freedom on the other side of the longest undefended border in the world. "

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17260-2003Nov8.html

It is somewhat refreshing to see that at least a few Americans care about the case of Maher Arar. While his story is huge in Canada, your country's media is completely silent. This is my point - while the Canadian officials are being held to task by the media (as they should be), and demands for an independent inquiry are growing louder each day - the US, who played the pivitol role in all of this has not had to answer to their media. In Canada, our government often screws up, but at least our media reports on it.

I wrote letters regarding Mr. Arar's aggregious case back in June and July of 2003 to your President George Bush, to your Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, to your Attorney General John Ashcroft as well as to your Secretary of Home Land Security, Tom Ridge. I received no reply from any of them. I think this is indicitive of your governments complete distain for Canada. Even the Syrian officials answered my letters promptly, as did my own governement. I must say that I have always regarded the United States a good neighbor. I no longer think this. Your country has become so full of fear that you are running rough-shod over human rights and the rule of international law. As your own Benjamin Franklin said in 1759, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Melanie Wildman
Saskatchewan,
Canada

And another thing - the Syrians have stated that the US pressured them into taking Maher Arar, and this is why he was flown to Jordan first - Because Syria refused to take him directly. They have also said that they released him because he was innocent, against the wishes of the US. The United States should be ashamed.

Yep, I had pointed this same thing out in http://reagle.org/joseph/blog/culture/2-degrees-to-terrorist

[[[
If we do live in a small world (6-degress of seperation), and the government is watching everything we do (Total Information Awareness), they might note that the brother of an acquaintance is a terrorist:

I was completely shocked. They pointed out that Abdullah had signed the lease as a witness. I had completely forgotten that he had signed it for me -- when we moved to Ottawa in 1997, we needed someone to witness our lease, and I phoned Abdullah's brother, and he could not come, so he sent Abdullah.

If you take the inexpensive flight that stops in the U.S. on your way home to Ottawa Canada, you might be interdicted and "renditioned": deported to an ally of the U.S. willing to torture you.
]]]

OK, first of all, don't pity the poor Syrians for being forced to take Mr. Arar from the US. They were the ones who tortured him, remember? I doubt they did this just because the Shrub's minions told them to. They were (according to Mr. Arar's account) torturing a whole bunch of other people at the same time.

Secondly, Chris_B, to even imply that he brought this on himself by associating with someone that would later be accused of terrorist links is outrageous. How many people have you EVER KNOWN who have been convicted of a felony? Does that mean you associate with felons? Does that mean you're a cirminal, or that you're going to become one? How can you know in advance what someone you knew once will do with their lives, who they will associate with, and what secret list they will end up on?

The scariest part of all of this is that the US, which at one point was the shining light of freedom and fairness, has lost its way. These are new laws, new policies, and new interpretations of existing law (such as the gray area of "illegal non-combatants" that is used to justify detention in Guantanamo Bay), and yet, law enforcement officials from multiple U.S. law enforcement agencies co-operated to detain this man and send him to Syria. Certainly, they were probably under the impression that this man was dangerous and that the case against him was sound, but somebody had to decide that it was OK to deport him to Syria despite his fears of torture there, and somebody had to decide that weak guilt by association was enough to justify deportation. (Wasn't he already trying to get onto a plane to immediately leave the U.S. when they stopped him?) Once again we've decided that jingoism and xenophobia are higher patriotic ideals than the ones that the Founders laid out for us.

Perhaps U.S. citizens who wish to be allowed to vote should be forced to pass the citizenship exam that green card applicants have to take.

This is a fascinating story and I agree, it's upsetting that this hasn't gotten more coverage in the U.S. media. Not all U.S. media is in the back pocket of moneyed conservative interests.

My comment about what the Syrian Ambassador to the US stated was not meant in any way to excuse the Syrian state of its human rights abuses, but to point out that the US, which regards itself as *the* bastion of democracy and human rights, is just as complicit as the Syrians, more so, as they sent Arar to Syria with the wish that he be tortured and with the express intent of using any information/intelligence gained from Mr. Arar under turture.

I am having trouble with this whole mess. I never liked, what I call, the Americana, the america/americans who fall right into the stereotypes, and felt sorry for the regular people, but this really pissed me off. I have friends from all over the world and one was undersuspicion of the FBI of being a terrorist...he's thirteen! Thats the thing I hate, how the americana sees anyone with a background thats middle eastern to be terrorists or polygamists and stuff like that. If this doesn't make any sence it's b/c I just had a root canal. yay.

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A bunch of people are talking about Maher Arar this morning. Arar is a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen who was arrested... Read More

A bunch of people are talking about Maher Arar this morning. Arar is a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen who was arrested... Read More

From Joi Ito's blog: Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen was arrested at a stopover in JFK in New York and deported to Syria by the US government. It seems to be unclear how they decided he was a "suspected... Read More

From Joi Ito's blog: Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen was arrested at a stopover in JFK in New York and deported to Syria by the US government. It seems to be unclear how they decided he was a "suspected... Read More

From Joi Ito's blog: Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen was arrested at a stopover in JFK in New York and deported to Syria by the US government. It seems to be unclear how they decided he was a "suspected... Read More

From Joi Ito's blog: Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen was arrested at a stopover in JFK in New York and deported to Syria by the US government. It seems to be unclear how they decided he was a "suspected... Read More

From Joi Ito's blog: Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen was arrested at a stopover in JFK in New York and deported to Syria by the US government. It seems to be unclear how they decided he was a "suspected... Read More

From Joi Ito's blog: Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen was arrested at a stopover in JFK in New York and deported to Syria by the US government. It seems to be unclear how they decided he was a "suspected... Read More

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