Americans have vigorously denounced the crimes at Abu Ghraib, but that’s the least of our nation’s sins in the War on Terror.

When we heard about the prisoner of war abuse in Iraq, we were disgusted. But we look the other way when our government hands terrorism suspects to other countries for “interrogation.” The torturers may not have American flags on their shoulders, but this no more absolves us of responsibility than did Pontius Pilate’s hand washing act.

American policy forbids the U.S. government from transferring detainees to nations where they are likely to be tortured. The Defense Department’s general counsel, William Haynes has stated, “Should an individual be transferred to another country to be held on behalf of the United States, … United States policy is to obtain specific assurances from the receiving country that it will not torture the individual …”

If that’s the case, Mr. Haynes, how do you explain Mamdouh Habib’s cigarette burns? Last week, The New York Times reported the story of Habib, an Australian citizen arrested in Pakistan and transferred to Egypt by America after spending time in Guantanamo Bay. Two weeks ago he was released – having never been charged with anything – and he started talking about his experience.

He alleges that, while in Egypt, his interrogators hung him from the ceiling and beat him with sticks. He was periodically doused with ice water and told that he would never see his family again.

The Times reported that it could not independently confirm Habib’s allegation, but that the allegations were consistent with information the paper had received from detainees, human rights groups and American diplomats and intelligence officers.

Then there’s the story of Maher Arar. A Canadian citizen of Syrian birth, Arar was detained by U.S. authorities at J.F.K. International Airport in New York after being placed on a terrorist watch list. Ten days later, he was deported to Syria, where he was held for almost a year.

In a statement read on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television, he alleged that he was held in a cell three feet wide by six feet long and beaten repeatedly, frequently with black electrical cables. He says that the areas where he was beaten turned blue for several weeks. For half a year, he did not see sunlight. For two months, he got no more than a couple hours’ sleep each night, his insomnia punctuated by the screams of other tortured prisoners.

After nearly a year of this, he signed a statement saying he’d been at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Arar says he did this to avoid further beatings. No one has credibly challenged his assertion. A few weeks later, Canadian officials negotiated his release.

He has not been charged with any crime in Canada or the United States.

Last year, Arar filed a lawsuit against the United States government for its complicity in his torture. Instead of defending its actions, the government is invoking the state secrets privilege and has refused to cooperate with the lawsuit. Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Deputy Attorney General James Conley signed affidavits stating that releasing any information would jeopardize American national security.

To add insult to injury, the government then moved to dismiss Arar’s claim for lack of support.

The governments of free societies should not be able to get claims against them dismissed by hiding evidence of their guilt. That’s tyranny, not justice.

If a Canadian and an Australian have alleged they were tortured while the United States looked the other way, I wonder how many citizens of countries with less liberal free speech rights have endured the same. And how many still are.

I can’t prove that Habib and Arar are not terrorists, but our government has not produced any evidence that they are either.

And guilt or innocence is beside the point. Civilized people do not allow convicted criminals to be brutalized – this is the very difference between us and the monsters who capture and publicly behead innocent civilians – and we sure as hell don’t allow for the torture of people on mere suspicion of wrongdoing.

A few weeks ago, I was proud to stand on the National Mall and hear my newly inaugurated president declare that “all who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors.”

Nice words. But Mr. President, heal first thyself.

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