Cracks show in FBI agent's testimony on Khadr
Under cross-examination, agent testifies Khadr said he saw
Arar in Afghanistan in 2001, but engineer was in Canada at the time
An FBI agent's testimony that Omar Khadr said he saw Maher Arar in
Afghanistan appeared significantly weaker yesterday than it did the day
before - and, in the case of at least one key detail, at odds with reality.
Robert Fuller, a prosecution witness in the Pentagon's Guantanamo Bay case
against Mr. Khadr, testified on Monday that Mr. Khadr, during a 2002
interrogation at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, identified a photo of Mr.
Arar and said he had seen him in a Kabul safe house run by an alleged
terrorist. But defence lawyers yesterday produced a report written by Mr.
Fuller in which he states that Mr. Khadr told him he saw Mr. Arar in
Afghanistan in September or October of 2001.
The problem is, Mr. Arar was in Canada in October, 2001, as the Arar
commission's findings clearly show. U.S. authorities also know he was in
California the previous month.
Under cross-examination yesterday by Mr. Khadr's U.S. military defence
lawyers, Mr. Fuller admitted that Mr. Khadr could not immediately name Mr.
Arar, but that agents gave him "a couple of minutes maybe" to think about
Mr. Khadr's interrogation at the hands of Mr. Fuller began on Oct. 7, the day
before U.S. authorities transferred Mr. Arar to the Middle East. It appears that
the entire Oct. 7 interrogation was focused on Mr. Arar, and that Mr. Khadr's
information became one of the "multiple sources" of intelligence the U.S.
Department of Justice used to defend its claim that Mr. Arar is a member of
al-Qaeda, and its decision to send him to Syria in October of 2002.
It was almost exactly one year earlier - when Mr. Fuller said Mr. Khadr told
him he saw Mr. Arar in Afghanistan - that the Mounties were running surveillance
on an Ottawa exporter, Abdullah Almalki, who was spotted meeting Mr. Arar at a
restaurant that Oct. 12. The RCMP spent the next month digging into Mr. Arar's
life, including running periodic surveillance on him and his house.
But after a month's investigation they "observed nothing unusual" and moved
on. No criminal allegations arose in Canada. Regardless, through a remarkable
set of circumstances, both Mr. Arar and Mr. Almalki were jailed the next year in
Syria, where they were interrogated by the same military squads.
Judges have concluded the men were tortured and that the deficiencies of
Canadian investigators contributed to their ordeals.
The Arar inquiry, led by Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor, found that Canadian
agents circulated inflammatory and false information concerning Mr. Arar prior
to the U.S. decision to "remove" him to Syria.
For that reason, Ottawa officials have apologized to Mr. Arar, compensated
his family to the tune of $10.5-million, and repeatedly urged U.S. officials to
remove him from a terrorist watch list.
Officials with the George W. Bush administration have never followed through
nor apologized, claiming that "multiple sources" implicated Mr. Arar. Until this
week, it had not been known that Omar Khadr was one of those sources.
Defence lawyers in the Khadr case quickly pointed to their client's
demonstrably untrue statement about Mr. Arar's whereabouts to advance their
argument that Mr. Khadr would regularly lie to his interrogators to keep them
from abusing him. It is for that reason that the defence team is asking for all
Mr. Khadr's statements during that time - including his alleged confession to
killing a U.S. soldier - to be thrown out.
Mr. Khadr had already been extensively interrogated by the time Mr. Fuller
got to him - his defence lawyers say their client's first interrogation took
place the day he regained consciousness in a U.S. military hospital in
Afghanistan, after he was shot and severely wounded in a firefight.
Maher Arar has said he has never been "anywhere near" Afghanistan. The U.S.
government has insisted it used "multiple sources" to brand him a threat.
What's not contentious is that, over the years, North American agents have
crossed the world with the Canadian engineer's mug shot, in hopes of generating
Much of what's resulted has proven highly disturbing, and not for the reasons
that agents had in mind. The focus has instead been on the methods used to
elicit information of dubious value.
THE EL MAATI "CONFESSION"
The statement: A Canadian Arab jailed in Syria right after Sept. 11, 2001,
has stated that he was forced to say he had once seen Mr. Arar in Afghanistan.
This occurred nearly a year before Mr. Arar was sent to the same jail to face
the same interrogators.
The problem: Ahmad Abou El Maati, who served with the Afghan mujahedeen,
says the statement was falsely made to appease his captors. Judges have
characterized his admissions as the unreliable product of severe torture.
THE KHADR BOMBSHELL
The statement: An FBI agent has testified that the 15-year-old fighter
captured in Afghanistan recognized a photo of Mr. Arar.
The problem: The interrogation of the war-wounded teenager was equivalent to
torture, activists say. Details of the intelligence - kept secret for seven
years - do not accord with other allegations.
THE LEAKED DOSSIER
The statement: Once Mr. Arar returned to Canada to draw attention to his
yearlong imprisonment in Syria, officials leaked a copy of his interrogation,
during which he was coerced into stating that he went to the Khalden camp in
Afghanistan for paramilitary training in 1993.
The problem: The leak is a falsehood and malicious smear, Mr. Arar and his
supporters have said. Judges have found the account to be the unreliable product
THE MINNESOTA MUJ
The statement: Five years ago, the FBI approached a Lebanese-born U.S. truck
driver to press him on people of Arab background who went to Afghanistan. The
Globe and Mail has reported that secret interview summaries indicate that
Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi said he spent years in Afghanistan and that Mr. Arar
briefly passed through.
The problem: The FBI ultimately arrested the trucker and charged him with
lying to federal agents. Mr. Arar has said he never met Mr. Elzahabi, now being
held incommunicado in El Paso, Tex.
THE ARAR INQUIRY
The statement: Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor spent years reviewing Canadian
files before finding "there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has
committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat."
The judge never settled the Arar-in-Afghanistan question, beyond suggesting
it was a red herring.
He wrote that thousands of religious Muslims flocked to the Afghan
paramilitary camps before al-Qaeda reformed to urge an anti-U.S. jihad
starting in the mid-1990s.
The Globe "closed" this article to comments.
What a hell of a good article by OMAR EL AKKAD AND COLIN FREEZE