Maher Arar is a 34-year-old native of Syria who emigrated to Canada as a
teenager. On Sept. 26, 2002, as he was returning from a family vacation in
Tunisia, he was seized by American authorities at Kennedy Airport in New
York, where he was in the process of changing planes.

Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen, was not charged with a crime. But, as Jane
Mayer tells us in a compelling and deeply disturbing article in the current
issue of The New Yorker, he “was placed in handcuffs and leg irons by
plainclothes officials and transferred to an executive jet.”

In an instant, Mr. Arar was swept into an increasingly common nightmare,
courtesy of the United States of America. The plane that took off with him
from Kennedy “flew to Washington, continued to Portland, Maine, stopped in
Rome, Italy, then landed in Amman, Jordan.”

Any rights Mr. Arar might have thought he had, either as a Canadian citizen
or a human being, had been left behind. At times during the trip, Mr. Arar
heard the pilots and crew identify themselves in radio communications as
members of “the Special Removal Unit.” He was being taken, on the orders of
the U.S. government, to Syria, where he would be tortured.

The title of Ms. Mayer’s article is “Outsourcing Torture.” It’s a detailed
account of the frightening and extremely secretive U.S. program known as
“extraordinary rendition.”

This is one of the great euphemisms of our time. Extraordinary rendition is
the name that’s been given to the policy of seizing individuals without
even the semblance of due process and sending them off to be interrogated
by regimes known to practice torture. In terms of bad behavior, it stands
side by side with contract killings


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