Guilty by reason of swarthiness
As we debate Guantanamo let’s remember that we occasionally grab the wrong person and sometimes they aren’t somewhat famous:
After being held for more than seven weeks in solitary confinement in an American military prison in Iraq, Cyrus Kar, an aspiring filmmaker from Los Angeles, was freed Sunday in Baghdad, exhausted and hungry but relieved that his ordeal was coming to an end.
“I am very happy to be out,” Mr. Kar said in a late-night interview in the hotel room where he was staying with his Iranian cameraman, who was also released. “My family wants me home soon, and I’ll be very happy to talk to everybody as soon as I get out of Iraq.”
Mr. Kar, 44, said that on the advice of his lawyers, he would not discuss the details of his treatment until he was safely back in the United States. As he sat shirtless on the couch in his room, a dark bruise was visible on his right arm and an abrasion on one of his legs, but he otherwise appeared in good health.
His ordeal, however, was still not quite over. American officials told him that his United States passport had been destroyed in the course of an effort to test its authenticity, his lawyers said, and that he might have to wait a week before a new one could be issued.
Mr. Kar’s camera and laptop computer were also missing or stolen, the lawyers said. The school ring he got with his master’s degree from Pepperdine University was gone, his relatives said, and even most of his clothes had been lost.
Mr. Kar said he had been able to recover all of the film he had shot during what he said were two weeks of work in Iraq before he and his cameraman, Farshid Faraji, were detained by Iraqi troops on May 17.
The two men were arrested after the taxi in which they were riding was stopped at a checkpoint near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, and a search of the vehicle turned up 35 washing-machine timers, devices that military officials said were sometimes used by Iraqi insurgents in making bombs.
In the American military’s first detailed statement about the matter on Sunday, a spokesman defended Mr. Kar’s detention, saying that he had represented “an imperative security threat to Iraq” and that his case was resolved “appropriately.”
The statement said a panel of military officers had reviewed the case of Mr. Kar, a naturalized American who was born in Iran and served in the Navy, allowing him to testify and call witnesses in his own defense.
“This case highlights the effectiveness of our detainee-review process,” the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Don Alston of the Air Force, said in the statement. “We followed well-established procedures, and Mr. Kar has now been properly released.”
So, after seven weeks of imprisonment, the destruction and loss of his personal property, and who knows what type of interrogations he went through…the system works! High five!
Eh, more or less:
Mr. Kar’s lawyers were never allowed to make contact with him during his detention and heard nothing about the review panel despite dozens of attempts to reach the military and other government agencies on his behalf. On Sunday, they sharply took issue with the military’s view.
“He was never told what if any charges were being made against him,” said one of the lawyers, Mark D. Rosenbaum. “He never had access to a lawyer. He was never told that he passed a lie-detector test. He was virtually incommunicado. That’s not a model detention policy. And that was for 50 days – for a guy who got into the wrong cab.”
In his statement, General Alston said the military had turned to the F.B.I. to investigate Mr. Kar’s possible involvement in terrorist activities, adding that the military convened its review panel on July 4, “upon being notified by the F.B.I. of the results of their investigation.”
But lawyers for Mr. Kar, who was making a film about the ancient Persian ruler Cyrus the Great, disputed the notion that the military had conducted its inquiry in a timely fashion and pointed to information that suggested otherwise.
According to F.B.I. documents provided to The New York Times, agents of the bureau searched Mr. Kar’s apartment in Los Angeles on May 23 and returned all of the seized belongings on June 14. His lawyers and relatives said the F.B.I. agent who returned those items, John D. Wilson, had told them he was doing so because Mr. Kar had already been cleared by the bureau and would be home within days.
Fog of war…our bad…sorry…won’t happen again…freedom is on the march…rinse, repeat.