Thursday, August 11, 2005

Everything Changed on 9/11 

Our eminent colleague Chris Floyd:
There's no such thing as the constitutional republic known as the United States of America anymore. It doesn't exist, it's long gone; you can look all you want, but it's just not there. All we have now is a "Commander-in-Chief state" -- call it Bushistan for lack of a better name -- where there is no law, just the arbitrary will of the military leader and his minions.
The reason for the outburst above:
Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.

The assertion came in oral arguments over a federal lawsuit by Maher Arar, a naturalized Canadian citizen who charges that United States officials plucked him from Kennedy International Airport when he was on the way home on Sept. 26, 2002, held him in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn detention center and then shipped him to his native Syria to be interrogated under torture because officials suspected that he was a member of Al Qaeda.

Syrian and Canadian officials have cleared Mr. Arar, 35, of any terrorist connections, but United States officials maintain that "clear and unequivocal" but classified evidence shows that he is a Qaeda member. They are seeking dismissal of his lawsuit, in part through the rare assertion of a "state secrets" privilege . . . .

Mr. Arar, who had been told he would be deported to Canada, was not handed a final order sending him to Syria until he was in handcuffs on the private jet that took him away, [Georgetown law professor David] Cole said, while his lawyer was told he had been sent to a jail in New Jersey.

"We can't take a citizen, pick him up at J.F.K. and send him to Syria to be tortured," he said. "We can't hold against Mr. Arar the failure to file a motion for review when he's locked up in a gravelike cell in Syria."

Dennis Barghaan, who represents former Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of the federal officials being sued for damages in the case, argued that Congress and recent judicial decisions tell federal courts "keep your nose out" of foreign affairs and national security questions, like those in this case.

At several points the judge seemed to echo such concerns. He said he had refused to read a letter from the plaintiffs detailing testimony before a Canadian board of inquiry into Mr. Arar's case because he did not know how to deal with questions that might require the government to confirm or deny classified information.

"How am I going to handle that?" he asked, rubbing his forehead and furrowing his brow before adjourning the hearing.

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