A touching (and very long and detailed) tale of hope and change, Afghan war and rendition division, via the Huffington Post. Some brief excerpts with the jist:
Raymond Azar, a 45-year-old Lebanese construction manager with a grade school education, is employed by Sima International, a Lebanon-based contractor that does work for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also has the unlikely distinction of being the first target of a rendition carried out on the Obama watch.
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....
According to papers filed by his lawyers, Azar was threatened, subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and induced to sign a confession. Azar claims he was hooded, stripped naked (while being photographed) and subjected to a "body cavity search."
On a ride to the infamous Bagram air base in Afghanistan...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 alleges that on arriving at Bagram he was shackled to a chair in an office for seven hours and not allowed to move. Then in the midst of a cold rainstorm he was taken to an unheated metal shipping container converted to use as a cell. The cell was brightly lit and although the outside temperature approached freezing, he was given only a thin blanket. He also claims that he was not permitted to sleep during his confinement at Bagram, which lasted over a day. Then he was told he was going to take a plane trip. His handlers would not tell him where he was going. He feared he was being dragged to Guantanamo, there to be "disappeared" and tortured. How else, he thought, could he explain the absence of Afghan authorities, the hooding and other techniques?
.....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 agents.
The decision to seize Azar in Afghanistan apparently was made in April 2009, six weeks into the Obama administration...."The United States views contract fraud as a very serious matter," Public Affairs Deputy Director Gina Talamona told me.
Guess so! Didn't Obama used to criticize Bush-era renditions?
Reeling from the adverse publicity associated with the Bush-era program, the Justice Department denies that the seizure in Kabul and forcible transportation of Azar and Cobos should be called a rendition. "This was a lawful law enforcement transfer consistent with international law," says Talamona. In papers filed in the court proceedings, the Justice Department prefers to call the process an "expulsion."
The Justice Department's papers insist that "defendants were expelled from Afghanistan, with the permission of the Government of Afghanistan, based upon outstanding arrest warrants issued by this Court."
In response to requests for clarification, Talamona states that the "consent of the Government of Afghanistan was secured through diplomatic channels, involving the State Department." Rob McInturff, a State Department public affairs officer, confirmed that U.S. diplomats were involved in the effort and claims that they secured the Afghan government's consent. But he refused to disclose who gave the consent, the specific parameters of the consent given, or even to identify the specific agency or ministry of the Afghan government from which the consent was given....
And even if you aren't troubled by the legalities of the seizure, was Azar's arrest really worth it, from a sheer fiscal discipline perspective?
The government's indictment claims that in response to a government sting operation, Cobos agreed to pay and then paid money to a person posing as a government contracts officer in order to retain or expand her company's business. It alleges that Azar knew of these actions and was Cobos's supervisor. But the case also raises strong questions simply about the allocation of resources. The sums of money involved in the government action as corrupt are relatively small, amounting to about $100,000. That's almost certainly a smaller sum than the Justice Department expended sending a Gulfstream V around the world and deploying a platoon of FBI agents to Afghanistan for the sting operation that apprehended the Lebanese business executives.
Many, many more details of the legal technicalities with links to supporting documents in the full story.
Jacob Sullum looked askance at Obama's rendition and detention policies in February. At least Azar is getting a real, reasonably quick trial.