The Supreme Court has in some cases been willing to temper the excesses of the war on terror, most notably in ruling that inmates at Guantanamo have the right to challenge their confinement in U.S. courts. But last week, it fell down on the job when it refused to consider the case of Maher Arar, the victim of an egregious and shocking violation of rights by the U.S. government
In September 2002, Arar, a dual Canadian Syrian citizen, was detained while changing planes at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, based on inaccurate Canadian intelligence linking him to terrorists. After being held by U.S. authorities for 12 days, he was flown to Jordan and then transported to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year. His mistreatment was not the result of blunders by minor bureaucrats. According to Arar's complaint, the deputy U.S. attorney general signed off on his transfer to Syria.
Arar sued several U.S. officials, including former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, citing both the Torture Victim Protection Act and the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of due process. The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York dismissed Arar's suit, holding that the "special factors" of extraordinary rendition — the program under which suspects were removed to another country for questioning — warranted "hesitation" by the court in recognizing his claims.