RCMP admits rules broken in Arar case

Globe and Mail Update

POSTED AT 2:46 PM EDT Friday, Sep 24, 2004


The RCMP admitted Friday that it brought Maher Arar to the attention of U.S. officials and then provided information used at the deportation hearing that sent him to the Middle East.

A censored report by a senior Mountie, tabled during in-camera proceedings inquiry examining the case of Mr. Arar, acknowledges that the force broke its own rules by giving information to U.S. intelligence officials without always insisting on strict conditions for its use.

“The manner in which the information was provided was not in accordance with RCMP policy,” says a copy of the report that was provided to “...This allowed U.S. agencies to use, or disseminate, that information as they deemed appropriate.”

The uncensored parts of the reports insist that no information was given directly to Syrian authorities, who held Mr. Arar for nearly a year, though it left unspoken the possibility that U.S. officials may have passed on such information.

The report makes it clear that, even before he was deported, the RCMP was keenly aware of the negative publicity that could stem from the case. A small meeting whose participants are not named in the report raises the concern that the U.S. might have been holding Mr. Arar solely to allow an interview by Canadian authorities.

“[If so], and if he did not co-operate and was subsequently sent to Syria then the perception could be damaging to the RCMP.”

The report insists that the RCMP did not know Mr. Arar was going to be deported and expected his return to Canada, noting that they had arranged surveillance for when he did arrive home.

Mr. Arar was accused of being a member of al-Qaeda and sent to the Middle East by U.S. authorities. Although he has continued to deny links to terrorism, he says Syrian officials tortured him repeatedly and kept him confined in a tiny cell.

While Mr. Arar was being held in the United States prior to his deportation, RCMP investigators considered flying to New York to try to question him themselves, the report says, but they could not get use of an official plane and deemed commercial flight too expensive.

The report, prepared by RCMP Chief Superintendent Brian Garvie, has had numerous sections blacked out and was formerly listed as a top-secret document. The omissions are extensive in several instances; for example, a chronology of the Arar case begins with nearly three blank pages.

The legible portion of the chronology begins in November, 2001, nearly 11 months before Mr. Arar was detained at one of New York's airports. He was stopped by U.S. officials in September, 2002 but came to the attention of Canadian authorities long before. In fact, the report explains, “U.S. authorities learned of [Mr. Arar] through a sharing of information between RCMP investigators and U.S. authorities.”

The report suggests that Canadian authorities provided their U.S. counterparts with a list of questions they had prepared months earlier for an interview with Mr. Arar that had never been conducted. There were no limits placed on what the recipients of this information could do with it and no supervisor signed off on the correspondence.

The report admits that the RCMP was ill-equipped to deal with the radically changed security environment ushered in by the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The document acknowledges shortcomings at the force after the 2001 attacks.

“Both at headquarters and in the field, the RCMP did not have sufficient investigative expertise, nor did they have the capacity to efficiently and effectively deal with national security investigations overall.”

The report is the result of an investigation ordered last fall by Shirley Heafey, head of the Commission of Public Complaints against the RCMP. It was tabled at a probe headed by Justice Dennis O'Connor and known officially as the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.

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