Thursday, August 13, 2009

Obama's Rendition Program

Scott Horton has a piece up at the Huffington Post about Raymond Azar, the apparent first case of rendition that has been carried out on Obama's watch. Horton's whole piece is worth the read, but here are some clips:

According to court papers, on April 7, 2009, Azar and a Lebanese-American colleague, Dinorah Cobos, were seized by "at least eight" heavily armed FBI agents in Kabul, Afghanistan, where they had traveled for a meeting to discuss the status of one of his company's U.S. government contracts. The trip ended with Azar alighting in manacles from a Gulfstream V executive jet in Manassas, Virginia, where he was formally arrested and charged in a federal antitrust probe.


On a ride to the infamous Bagram air base in Afghanistan -- site of the torture-homicides involving U.S. interrogators exposed in the Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side -- Azar contends that a federal agent pulled a photograph of Azar's wife and four children from his wallet. Confess that you were bribing the contract officer, the agent allegedly said, or you may "never see them again." Azar told his lawyers he interpreted that as a threat to do physical harm to his family.


Before boarding the Gulfstream, Azar was shackled, blindfolded and had earphones placed on his head. Occasionally, the earphones and blindfold were removed so that his interrogation by FBI agents could continue. The 16-hour flight was broken by a refueling stop in Tbilisi, Georgia -- which has long served as a pit stop for rendition flights into and out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. During the flight, according to papers filed by the Justice Department, Azar confessed to the charges against him--essentially that he was aware of corrupt payments made to a U.S. government contract agent to help Sima International secure or extend its contracts with U.S. government agencies.

Azar's attorneys are now seeking to suppress that confession, arguing it was secured by torture and that Azar, a native Arabic speaker, did not understand English well enough to have given it.

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