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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:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average duration of a Japanese prime minister’s tenure since August 1993, in months:
Brain shrinkage has no effect on cognition.
An Indianapolis fertility doctor was accused of using his own sperm to artificially inseminate patients, and a Delaware man pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his former psychiatrist.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”