Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jeff Sallot, "MPs urge swifter action on Arar 'leakers,'" Globe & Mail, January 31, 2007.

OTTAWA -- The federal government still doesn't know who is behind the campaign to smear the reputation of Maher Arar, senior security officials said yesterday.

Margaret Bloodworth, the national security adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said the culprits have so far covered their tracks.

William Elliott, associate deputy minister for public safety, said there is little more the government can do but allow the RCMP to continue its investigation into whether its officers are responsible.

The testimony of the two security officials angered several opposition MPs on the House public safety committee. The government needs to do more to identify the "despicable leakers" within its ranks who spread false reports to some journalists that Mr. Arar, a Canadian software engineer, had terrorist connections, NDP critic Joe Comartin said.
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The Globe and Mail

Liberal MP Omar Alghabra said he was frustrated by the "lack of enthusiasm" by the two witnesses to try to find out who smeared Mr. Arar.

Ms. Bloodworth said she didn't know what more the government could do than let the RCMP investigate. Officials who betray the trust of the government by leaking information will lie about what they did, she added.

Mr. Elliott told the committee that leaking information is a "breach of our fundamental values" within government.

Speaking with reporters later, Mr. Elliott said he thought there was nothing strange about letting the RCMP investigate itself.

"I don't think there is any indication the RCMP were the leakers," Mr. Elliott said. (As associate deputy minister of public safety, Mr. Elliott is one of the most senior officials in a department that includes the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.)

The RCMP passed false and inflammatory intelligence reports about Mr. Arar to U.S. authorities in 2002, a judicial commission of inquiry reported in September.

Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor, the inquiry commissioner, also said the U.S. authorities very likely used this misinformation when deciding to deport Mr. Arar to Syria, where, suspected of being an al-Qaeda member, he was tortured.

Efforts to smear Mr. Arar continued even after his release by Syria in 2003, Judge O'Connor said.

The "most notorious of the Arar leaks" resulted in an Ottawa Citizen story on Nov. 8, 2003, saying the man was associated with other individuals suspected of being members of an al-Qaeda cell in the national capital, the O'Connor report said.

The news story included a detailed description of the RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team office in Ottawa, "a place not accessible to the public," the O'Connor report noted.

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