U.S. sponsors ‘torture tourism’

United States officials adamantly profess that torture will not be tolerated by the United States. Yet more proof is beginning to surface that even though U.S. forces have been good about keeping their own hands clean, in numerous cases individuals were handed over to foreign nations where they were tortured.

This may be a way of getting around the letter and spirit of the law, but it certainly flies in the face of any claim the United States has made to be the world’s leader in freedom and civil rights.

The tales surrounding the individuals who were “deported” could hardly be more troubling. Two cases of European citizens being apprehended by American officials within European countries are known, but the location of either one still remains shrouded in mystery.

While high-ranking U.S. officials have been denying such torture tourism, new proof surfaced in at least one case that makes what has been downplayed as “conspiracy theories” a harsh reality.

Maher Arar, a 35-year-old Canadian engineer returning back to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia, was “apprehended” while switching planes in New York. His claim is that he was transported by a small charter plane to Syria where, according to the New York Times, he was “held for 10 months in a cell he compared to a grave, and two more months in a less confined space” until he was freed in October 2003.

In this particular case, the Times unearthed Federal Aviation Administration records that prove such a flight occurred. While the records only detail the movements of the plane before it left U.S. airspace, the details corroborate Arar’s claims enough to make them credible.

The reports that camps like the one in Guantanamo Bay — in which individuals are held without due process and access to lawyers — also exist in other secret locations in Afghanistan or even onboard naval vessels make such claims quite troubling.

There also were several cases of “ghosts” reported in the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib, a classification used by the CIA for prisoners who are held without any record. The practice is illegal in the court of international law, as well as under the Geneva Convention. Yet one such “ghost” detainee died during interrogation.

Such trafficking and U.S.-sanctioned torture must stop. It is simply unacceptable that sovereign nations have their territory invaded, that international law be ignored and that the rights of the individuals who are trafficked are being violated, all occurring with the support of the United States.