A federal appeals court put government lawyers on the hot seat Friday as it tried to decide whether to revive a civil case brought by a Canadian engineer seized by U.S. officials and sent to Syria, where he says he was tortured.
The three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seemed eager to explore whether U.S. constitutional protections should apply to people like Maher Arar, 37, who was labeled a member of al-Qaida when he switched planes at Kennedy Airport in 2002 as he returned to Canada from vacation.
He was released without charges and returned to Canada after spending nearly a year in a Syrian prison.
“What was done to this man was absolutely dreadful,” Judge Robert Sack said at one point.
The story of Maher Arar is one of the more stomach turning events of the Bush
presidency dictatorship. Not only was he detained stateside for weeks, rendered to Syria, tortured for a year for FWM (flying while Muslim), his lawsuit against those responsible was dismissed in February, 2006, on the grounds of state secrets and national security. The effect was to tell the powers that be that they could do what they want, whenever they want, to citizens of other countries.
This notion was resoundingly proclaimed in court. According to Jeffrey Bucholtz, a deputy assistant attorney general arguing against the appeal, “The Constitution doesn’t apply to aliens abroad… [It was] not designed to govern what happens the world over.”