Friday, January 26, 2007

Putting a Price Tag on Consequences

According to Reuters, this morning the Canadian government declared what they felt would be suitable compensation for a case of (apparently) unjustified extraordinary rendition:

Canada will formally apologize on Friday to software engineer Maher Arar, who was deported to Syria by U.S. agents after Canadian police mistakenly labeled him an Islamic extremist, and offer him C$10 million ($8.5 million) compensation, according to media reports.

Arar, who says he was repeatedly tortured during the year he spent in Damascus jails, had initially sued Ottawa for C$400 million, a figure he later cut to C$37 million. CBC Television said the settlement would be for C$10 million, while CTV said Ottawa would also pay Arar's C$2 million legal bills.

The bad news is that Canada has been stuck with paying the price for US blunders of both strategy and tactics. If this whole affair could be used as a "learning experience," we might try to find good news in it; but this does not appear to be the case:

The official probe found that the Mounties had wrongly told U.S. border agents that Arar was a suspected Islamic extremist and it slammed the police for incompetence and dishonesty.

Canada's top Mountie resigned in December over the issue.

Ottawa is also probing claims by three other men who say they were tortured in Syria because of information provided by Canadian authorities.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has promised to keep pressing Washington to have him removed from the security watch list, something the U.S. ambassador to Canada has described as "presumptuous."

U.S. officials say Arar will remain on their list because of unspecified information possessed by law enforcement agencies. Arar is also suing the United States for damages.

This makes the comment by Paul Cavalluzzo, lead counsel for that official probe, that Arar "can live his life now like a normal Canadian" sound more than a little gratuitous!

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