In a sense of how difficult this fight against terrorism can be, a Canadian citizen who was sent by the US to Syria for interrogation was awarded compensation by the Canadian Government for his torture and imprisonment. This is a very tricky situation. Everybody would want to avoid a situation where a person is locked up for a long period of time or undergoes a situation of torture, especially when a person is innocent. A good example of this are the people who are still locked up in Guatanamo Bay in Cuba, accused of terrorism.

Maher Arar, was targeted by the Canadian police as a possible terrorism suspect, and when in New York airport on a stopover, was detained by US authorities and handed over to Syrian authorities who interrogated him (and tortured) for 10 months before releasing him. They could find nothing against him. The Canadian police can find nothing against him. The US authorities claim that they have information that makes him a continuing suspect. US authorities also refused to cooperate with the Canadian police in this regard.

What a mix-up. If one considers normal legal processes, then Maher Arar is undoubtedly in the right. No one has a bit of evidence against him, none whatsoever. If the American authorities have evidence, they should just go ahead and provide it so that the situation can be resolved.

Where it gets murky is the problem regarding the nebulous nature of terrorism. If one considers most acts of terrorism, it is very difficult to follow the complete legal process in doing a prevent / convict process. To keep a prolonged watch on someone who is suspected of activities is difficult as it would seem to intrude on the person’s privacy, and would not be able to get enough search warrants. The ideal legal case is that you can arrest someone only after the person commits a crime, or is in a sufficiently advanced stage of planning such that a conviction can be obtained. If you try to convict earlier and the case falls through, then the claim is that an innocent person is framed.

In many cases, evidence is obtained through mechanisms that will not stand upto legal scrutiny or which will expose these mechanisms, preventing them from being used again. (An example is when terrorist information is obtained from an infiltrator, but who becomes suspect as soon as the information is revealed)

As I asked earlier, how do you balance the need to keep alive the liberties of a person and the need to protect society from the scourge of terrorism (which may require extraordinary measures) ?

[Edited by Simon – Clarity]

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