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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.
Estimated percentage of New Hampshire’s bat population that died in 2010:
A horticulturalist in Florida announced a new low-carb potato.
In Peru, a 51-year-old activist became the first former sex worker to run for the national legislature. “I’m going to put order,” she said, “in that big brothel which is Congress.”
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“Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.”