OTTAWA - Canada's former top cop blames the United States for the deportation of a Canadian national to Syria, where he was tortured and held for a year, he told public broadcaster CBC on Wednesday.
Former Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli told the CBC that US authorities deliberately misled Canada's federal police about their intentions for Maher Arar.
Arar, who holds dual Canadian-Syrian citizenship, was detained by US authorities in New York while in transit from Tunisia to his home in Canada in September 2002 and deported to Syria where he was jailed for nearly a year.
A 2007 judicial report found US authorities had likely relied on faulty intelligence provided by the RCMP to arrest and deport Arar, who later claimed he was tortured in Syria.
The case led to Zaccardelli's resignation and Arar was awarded 10 million dollars by the Canadian government for his ordeal.
Now, Zaccardelli says the RCMP was "led to believe that (Arar) was going to be released and he was coming to Canada" after his New York stopover.
Zaccardelli explained that US authorities had asked whether the RCMP could detain Arar if he was sent to Canada, and the RCMP said there was no solid evidence linking Arar to terrorism.
Afterwards, Arar, then believed to be a peripheral figure in a broader RCMP terrorism investigation, simply did not show up.
Zaccardelli also said the decision to deport Arar came from senior officials in Washington, not the CIA or FBI. He noted that the Bush administration had started treating even allied foreign intelligence agencies with suspicion since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"In effect, the Americans threw away the rule book on how to cooperate and work with their allies and their closest friends," Zaccardelli said.
In the interview, Zaccardelli also criticized the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for keeping the RCMP out of the loop on national security matters, where they should share responsibility.