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Norman Spector

Obama stiffs Maher Arar Add to ...

Ten days ago - in a little noted item north of the border - the New York Times reported on its front page that putting Omar Khadr on trial before a military commission was giving officials in the Obama Administration a severe case of heartburn. To the point that the anonymous officials who spoke to the Times had even discussed aborting the trial, and were hoping at minimum for a plea bargain. However, according to the report: "the administration has not pushed to do so because officials fear, for legal and political reasons, that it would be seen as improper interference." Notably, the political reasons included the feelings of the widow of the U.S. medic allegedly killed by Omar Khadr.

Today, the lead story in the New York Times reports a ruling on an appeal by the Obama Administration against a decision that would have allowed individuals such as Maher Arar to sue U.S. authorities responsible for his "extraordinary rendition" to Syria, where he was tortured:

"A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information.

The sharply divided ruling was a major victory for the Obama administration's efforts to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy powers. It strengthens the White House's hand as it has pushed an array of assertive counterterrorism policies, while raising an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule for the first time in decades on the scope of the president's power to restrict litigation that could reveal state secrets."

The "state secrets doctrine" was the basis on which a New York court refused last year to allow Maher Arar to sue the CIA. The rationale for Wednesday's decision shows again that, on issues such as this, Americans are from Mars and Canadians are from Venus - whether George Bush or Barack Obama is in the Oval Office:

"Judge Raymond C. Fisher described the case, which reversed an earlier decision, as presenting 'a painful conflict between human rights and national security.' But, he said, the majority had 'reluctantly' concluded that the lawsuit represented 'a rare case' in which the government's need to protect state secrets trumped the plaintiffs' need to have a day in court."

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