Maher Arar testified before a joint hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives foreign affairs and judiciary committees on October 18, in spite of the fact that he is not allowed into the country. Videoconferencing to the rescue. The hearing dealt with extraordinary rendition.
Participating members of the House fell over one another in expressing regret and even apologizing for Arar’s ordeal of being sent to Syria to be tortured. They called for compensation for him. Republican Dana Rohrabacher of California said, “We should be ashamed.” Yet, he blamed Canada for providing the false information on the basis of which Arar was subjected to extraordinary rendition. He claimed that the treatment Arar received was an exception and that the rendition policy itself is appropriate. He even put in a good word for waterboarding.
Democrat Jerrold Nadler of New York, who was given access to the classified information on the basis of which Arar is forbidden entry into the U.S., stated, “There is nothing there that justifies denying you entry.” His observation mirrors comments that had been made in the past by Canada’s Conservative Minister of Public Safety, who was also showed the U.S. government’s file on Arar. According to a recent article in the Toronto Globe and Mail, the basis on which Arar is blacklisted may be because of the testimony of Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, in jail in Minnesota for immigration fraud and charged with lying to the FBI. Elzahabi stated that he saw Arar in a training camp in Afghanistan. Arar states that he has never been in that country.
More recently, while not in any way apologizing for what was done to Arar, U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the committee that errors were made in failing to communicate adequately with Canada about what was happening.