U.S. Must Stop Kidnapping Innocent Civilians

Imagine being a Canadian citizen connecting at JFK Airport in New York on your way home from a flight overseas and being grabbed by CIA agents.  Before you know it, you're in a jail cell in Syria, a country the U.S. acknowledges practices torture, accused of being a terrorist.  After ten months of torture, your captors admit you don't know anything about terror and let you go.

Of course, it's widely known that this is exactly what happened to Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, in 2002.  Yesterday, I sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking the Administration to provide the legal basis for this revolting practice known as extraordinary rendition.  (In fact, I asked him for this at a hearing last April, at which time he promised to get back to me.  He hasn't).

Picking up a foreign national off the street and sending him or her to a country we know practices torture is an egregious violation of American law in and of itself.  But the administration has gone even further.  According to the New York Times, it appears now that American citizens can be taken by the government, anywhere in the world, and detained indefinitely without the benefit of a hearing.

On December 18, 2006 the Times told the story of two American citizens who were detained for several weeks by the U.S. military while working as contractors in Iraq.  According to the report, the two men were not permitted to speak with attorneys; their families were not informed of their whereabouts; and they were mistreated while in custody.  In fact, one of the Americans was detained after reporting possible misconduct by the Iraqi company for which he worked to the F.B.I.

For several years, this administration has been insisting that its detention policies apply only to unlawful enemy combatants, not American citizens.  Americans, we were told, have the right to contest their detention in court.  Now our worst fears have been confirmed.  This administration has flouted the Constitution and the laws of the United States.  The President has shown a reckless disregard for the rule of law.

The American people are entitled to know the facts, not just the evasions and misrepresentations of this administration.  In this new Congress, I will demand explanations from the Bush Administration and insist that the detention laws be reviewed in order to stop this President's lawless behavior.