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Raymond Azar is a 45-year-old Lebanese construction manager who traveled to Kabul in April to meet with one of his clients, the U.S. Government. He wound up being seized by a platoon of FBI agents and flown on a Gulfstream to Virginia, manacled with a hood and earphones so he could neither see nor hear. By his account, he was stripped naked, subjected to a body cavity search, sleep deprivation, and hypothermia, and then threatened with the prospect of never seeing his family again unless he confessed to his crime. Azar is not a suspected terrorist or even a drug kingpin. His crime was knowing that one of his underlings had paid a bribe to a U.S. official to secure or extend a construction contract for the Defense Department.
Azar is the first documented case of a rendition during the administration of Barack Obama. And it reflects Obama making good on some of his pledges, while raising serious questions about others. I give the case a review in a feature piece in the Huffington Post.
Azar alleges that he was tortured in order to extract a confession. The Justice Department barely disputes his specific factual allegations. They contend, however, that the charge of torture is “hyperbolic.” They insist that the procedures used on Azar are “standard.” They may indeed be standard procedures in connection with the war in Afghanistan, but their application in a small-scale contract fraud case in the Eastern District of Virginia should set off some alarm bells. The charge that the use of these techniques to secure a confession is at least unlawful coercion–if not in fact torture–stacks up with the findings of a number of courts, both in the United States and in other jurisdictions.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”