Royal Canadian Mounted Police Project A-O Canada and Connection With Arar's Rendition
On September 22, 2001, Jack Hooper, the director general of the Toronto region of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), chaired a meeting of members of CSIS, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police Force, and Peel Regional Police Force. On September 24, 2001, the RCMP's "O" Division in Toronto created a joint force investigative team called Project O Canada to handle national security investigations. The Toronto team included RCMP investigators and members of the Ontario, Peel, and Toronto police forces.
On October, 2001, Inspector Garry Clement, officer of the RCMP "A" Division in Ottawa, told RCMP Inspector Michel Cabana that Toronto's Project O Canada needed a team in Ottawa to help with its investigations of an Ottawa man named Abdullah Almalki. In response, Project A-O Canada was created. Garry Clement told Michel Cabana that the team would be working closely with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Later on, the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar revealed that there were no clear directions to RCMP officers regarding how to share information with the FBI and the CIA. Richard Proulx - RCMP Officer and then Assistant RCMP commissioner, was the official singled out in the report for failing to provide these clear directions.
The A-O Canada team included investigators and members from: the RCMP commercial crimes unit, "A" Divisions IPOC unit; the RCMP National Security Investigations Branch (NSIS), CSIS, the Ottawa Police, Gatineau Police, Hull Police and Ontario Provincial Police; the Sûreté du Québec; the Canada Border Services Agency; and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, and the support of lawyers from the Canadian Justice Department.
After he had moved back to Ottawa, Arar had a meeting with Abdullah Almalki on October 12, 2001. Almalki, an Ottawa engineer, was also born in Syria and had moved to Canada in the same year as Arar. They met at the Mango Café, a popular shawarma restaurant in a strip mall and talked about doctors and bought a print cartridge together.
At the time their movements were under close scrutiny by teams of Project A-O Canada. Before Project A-O Canada was created, CSIS had been monitoring Almalki at least since 1998 with respect to his relationship with Ahmed Khadr, an Egyptian-born Canadian and alleged senior associate of Osama bin Laden. CSIS was also concerned with Almalki's electronic components export business that he operated with his wife. Almalki, however, was purely a person of interest and was not, in fact, the target of the investigation. Nonetheless, Almalki's meeting with Arar appears to have prompted a wider investigation, with Arar also becoming a "person of interest."
While testifying at the Guantanamo military commission for alleged child soldier Omar Khadr, FBI agent Robert Fuller testified that Khadr had identified Maher Arar as among the al-Qaeda militants he met while in Afghanistan. On October 7, 2002, Mr. Fuller went to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and showed Canadian teenager Omar Khadr a black-and-white photograph of Arar obtained from the FBI office in Massachusetts, and demanded to know if he recognised him. Khadr initially stated that he did not recognise Arar. Upon cross-examination, Mr. Fuller clarified his testimony saying that at first Mr. Khadr could not identify Mr. Arar. Then after giving him a couple minutes Khadr "stated he felt he had seen" Maher Arar at a Kabul safehouse run by Abu Musab al-Suri or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The validity of Omar Khadr's possible sighting has been seriously questioned due to the time frame of the alleged sighting which was sometime during September or October 2001. Mr. Arar was known to be in North America during this time frame and under surveillance by the RCMP. Khadr's lawyer told Canadian media that Khadr, claiming to be under torture at Bagram Theater Internment Facility, simply told his captors whatever he thought they wanted to hear. Lawyers and advocates familiar with the case immediately dismissed the allegations.
Information gathered from the United States interrogation of Omar Khadr conflicts with the information gathered previously from the RCMP. Mr. Michael Edelson stated in public testimony given during the Arar Inquiry that RCMP officials from Project AO Canada had shown pictures of Mr. Arar to Mr. Khadr in either July or August 2002 and that Mr. Khadr denied ever seeing Maher Arar.
Within a sworn affidavit, Mr. Khadr stated he was visited by three individuals claiming to be Canadians at Guantanamo Bay in March 2003. During their three day visit, he was shown "approximately 20 pictures of various people" and asked about several people "such as my father and Arar". At which time he told them "what knew".
Arrested in 2002, Arward Al-Bousha gave up the name of Arar as a possible militant, after he himself had been fingered in a confession given by Abdullah Almalki allegedly to stop his own torture.
Read more about this topic: Maher Arar
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