Amazing how often the Bush administration lies, er, I mean, gets “mixed up.”
In an embarrassing turnabout, the Department of Justice backed away Wednesday from a denial by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales of responsibility for the treatment of a Canadian who was seized by American authorities in 2002. The man was deported to Syria, where he was imprisoned and beaten.
Asked at a news conference on Tuesday about a Canadian commission’s finding that the man, Maher Arar, was wrongly sent to Syria and tortured there, Mr. Gonzales replied, “Well, we were not responsible for his removal to Syria.” He added, “I’m not aware that he was tortured.”
The attorney general’s comments caused puzzlement because they followed front-page news articles of the findings of the Canadian commission. It reported that based on inaccurate information from Canada about Mr. Arar’s supposed terrorist ties, American officials ordered him taken to Syria, an action documented in public records.
On Wednesday, a Justice Department spokesman said Mr. Gonzales had intended to make only a narrow point: that deportations are now handled by the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Justice.
The spokesman, Charles Miller, said the attorney general forgot that at the time of Mr. Arar’s deportation, such matters were still handled by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which was part of the Department of Justice.
“He had his timeline mixed up,” Mr. Miller said.