CIA insiders objected to the arrest, rendition, and torture of Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar, but high-ranking officials ignored concerns that they were punishing an innocent man, according to former spy and whistleblower John Kiriakou in an interview with the Canadian Press.
After serving two years behind bars, Kiriakou—the only government official to be punished in connection with the U.S. torture program—was released from Loretto Prison in Pennsylvania in February, under orders to finish the remainder of his 30-month sentence at home.
The interview with journalist Alexander Panetta took place in the former CIA official’s house in Virginia.
Kiriakou talked specifically about Maher Arar’s case (pdf), which galvanized international human rights groups and highlighted the disturbing practice of rendition.
Arar was detained during a layover at New York’s JFK Airport in September 2002 on his way home to his family in Canada. He was held in solitary confinement for nearly two weeks, interrogated, and denied meaningful access to a lawyer, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented Arar in the federal lawsuit Arar v. Ashcroft.
The Bush administration labeled him a member of Al Qaeda, and rendered him not to Canada—his home and country of citizenship—but to Syrian intelligence authorities renowned for torture.
In Syria, Arar said he was interrogated and tortured without charge, and forced to falsely confess attending a training camp in Afghanistan. After nearly a year of confinement, Syrian authorities released Arar, publicly stating that they had found no connection to any criminal or terrorist organization or activity.
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