Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror
, law professors David Cole and Jules Lobel make a convincing case that not only is the Bush administration's "war on terror" subverting many of America's cherished legal values, it also doesn't work.
By Douglas McCollam|November 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM|Originally published on Legal Times
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On September 26, 2002, Maher Arar, a technology consultant who lived in Montreal, was flying home from Tunisia to see his wife and two kids when his life took a sudden swerve into a new American paradigm. While catching a connecting flight at New York’s JFK airport, U.S. immigration officials pulled him aside for questioning. Not liking his answers, they moved him to a detention center in Brooklyn where Arar understood he was accused of having “connections” to the al-Qaida terrorist network. What connections? Sorry, that was classified. Neither Arar nor his attorney ever knew. When he learned he was to be deported, he asked to be sent home to Canada, where he had been a citizen since 1991. Instead, U.S. officials shipped him to Syria, where Arar was born and held citizenship but hadn’t lived in almost 20 years. As it turned out, he wouldn’t be renewing any old acquaintances there either. After arriving on a chartered jet in Jordan, he was turned over to Syrian authorities and imprisoned for a year, much of the time in 3-by-6-foot cell. He was periodically beaten and interrogated. The questions he was asked, Arar couldn’t help but notice, sounded a lot like the questions he was asked in the United States. Eventually, Arar was released and sent home to Canada. He was never charged with a crime, and a subsequent inquiry by the Canadian government cleared him of any ties to terrorist organizations. A NEW PRISM Arar’s case is one of many cited in the new book, Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror, by law professors David Cole and Jules Lobel. In it the writers make a convincing case that not only is the Bush administration’s “war on terror” subverting many of America’s cherished legal values, it also doesn’t work. The authors place the administration’s post-9/11 foreign and domestic strategy under a single rubric they call the “preventive paradigm.” The fundamental idea of the paradigm is that all threats have to be evaluated on the basis of acting before another terrorist attack can take place, even if evidence for such an attack is speculative and remote. Elsewhere, this has been referred to as the “1 percent doctrine,” Vice President Dick Cheney’s formulation that even if there is only a 1 percent likelihood that a threat is real, you have to assume that it will happen. As Cole and Lobel detail, this shift in strategy has profound consequences both for individual rights at home and on American military policy abroad. As then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said of the Iraq War, “We did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. We acted because we saw the existing evidence through the prism of our experience on 9/11.”
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