Torture memos, torture judge Jay Bybee

April 18, 2009 | By | 13 Replies More

Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow has interviewed human rights attorney Scott Horton regarding the Bush-era memos that purported to provide to the CIA a justification for U.S. torture of its prisoners.  Horton provided substantial criticism of the memos and had special criticism for one of the authors of the memos, Jay Bybee, who currently sits in a tenured position of federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

The clinical detail of the discussion of the torture techniques is just astonishing. You know, I think the bugs-in-the-box instance that you cited, which we really hadn’t heard anything, before the discussion of waterboarding. But just back up and put some perspective on this. These are techniques that federal prosecutors previously charged as crimes. Moreover, in prosecutions that occurred at the end of the World War II, American federal prosecutors sought the death penalty, sought capital punishment, for people who did these things. And now we see a man who is a federal judge sitting in San Francisco writing a memo saying “wink, nod, fine with me, just go right ahead and do it.” It’s just astonishing, and I think also astonishing that that individual in particular can sit as a federal judge today when the world knows that these memos have been crafted and, in fact, when he’s the subject of a pending criminal proceeding in Spain.

The entire interview worth your while.


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (13)

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  1. nader paul kucinich says:

    This is the Lawyered-up Propaganda produced for mass consumption.

    The REAL memos are leaking out all over the place ~

    Thank you whistle blowers!

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    From EmptyWheel:

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    It's time to impeach federal judge Jay Bybee, according to the NYT. I agree. This is a no-brainer. It is a disgrace to allow him to continue holding office. Here's an excerpt from a post by Sam Stein:

    Sunday's New York Times called on Congress to impeach federal judge Jay Bybee over his now infamous role in authoring one of the Bush administration memos arguing for the legality of torture.

    "These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution," wrote the paper. "Congress should impeach him."

    Here's a bit of the NYT op-ed:

    These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors’ statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values.

    • Tim Hogan says:

      It is a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for an attorney to not report another's violation of the Rules. Perhaps the Obama DOJ needs to review their loyalties…to professionalism, or to politics!

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Senator Russ Feingold is pro-investigation:

    "Part of what troubles me are the lawyers — we should see their law school degrees — who consciously wrote these memos justifying and explaining full well those outrageous arguments," the Wisconsin Democrat said on Tuesday in reference to the Bush-era torture memos released last week. "I cannot join the president, or his spokesman, or [chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel, who said we aren't going [to prosecute these people]. I can't. I just disagree with them."

  5. Tony Coyle says:

    Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D. Ill) was on Countdown last night putting the case for investigation. Schakowsky is Chairwoman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

    Hopefully the congress and senate can act independently (as they have the right to do) and the administration will not stand in their way.

    My personal thought is that Obama's position is purely political. It gives him the ability to say to those in the CIA & DOJ that 'he' didn't push for prosecution, but that it was the 'will of the people' through their representatives in Congress and the Senate. It suggests a Machiavellian streak in our CinC – which I'd be unhappy about – but is still better than having a stupid puppet for President.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      I applaud Obama's savvy, to the extent that he planned this. These are tenuous times (the only reason Obama could get elected is that McCain totally imploded, in my opinion). Therefore, political capital is precious. I suspect that Obama knew damned well that releasing the lightly redacted memos would cause a firestorm. I'm glad he overruled the opposition and let it fly. It's better to know than not know. Plus, I find the conservative arguments (that disclosing our torture methods will compromise national security) to be disingenuous. I'm hungry to know who gave the OK for the reprehensible torture techniques, all the up to Cheney and beyond.

  6. Mindy Carney says:

    Dang, Erich, you took the words right out of my keyboard! Actually, I was going to say to Tony that I don't see it as much Machiavellian as politically astute. If he openly stated that he was all for prosecution, he'd come off as exercising a dangerous political agenda. Better to open the door and leave it open, as he has done, and allow the people's will to work the system, hopefully, for a change.

    I, for one, think it'd be damned lovely to hear that the "people's will" actually accomplished something.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    According to Think Progress:

    The techniques Bybee approved are illegal by U.S. statute and an international treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory. Bybee attempted to give legal cover to illegal acts, and thus broke the ethical, professional, and legal standards that govern lawyers. For this, Judge Jay Bybee should be impeached.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    From the NYT:

    [W]aterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

    [T]he former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    Gene Lyons of raises many good points about Judge Bybee in his article, "The Shaming of America."

    So here's my question: Would Bybee, in his capacity as a federal judge, uphold a murder conviction in which witnesses had been waterboarded? A rape confession? Would it be all right for police to induce confessions by keeping suspects awake for 11 days by shackling them naked in a standing position, dousing them with ice water and smashing their heads into a wall? How about cramming them into coffin-size boxes for weeks? He thought that appropriate for terror suspects.

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