Judge Jay Bybee finally “broke his silence” and talked to the New York Times about his legal memos which authorized torture. This past weekend, the Washington Post quoted anonymous friends of Bybee claiming that Bybee was apologetic for authoring the memos. Speaking for himself, Bybee said that’s not the case:
[H]e said: “The central question for lawyers was a narrow one; locate, under the statutory definition, the thin line between harsh treatment of a high-ranking Al Qaeda terrorist that is not torture and harsh treatment that is. I believed at the time, and continue to believe today, that the conclusions were legally correct.”
Other administration lawyers agreed with those conclusions, Judge Bybee said.
“The legal question was and is difficult,” he said. “And the stakes for the country were significant no matter what our opinion. In that context, we gave our best, honest advice, based on our good-faith analysis of the law.”
Bybee, “the man behind waterboarding,” once said that he would like his “headstone to read, ‘He always tried to do the right thing.’” The right thing would be for him to resign. If he does not do so, Congress should impeach him.
The Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility is currently conducting a review of Bybee’s work. The New York Times’s Charlie Savage recently reported that the review could find that Bybee’s office changed its legal views to cater to policy makers:
One thing could change that dynamic, however. The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has been investigating the work of lawyers who signed off on the interrogation policy, and is believed to have obtained archived e-mail messages from the time when the memorandums were being drafted.
If it turned out that the lawyers initially concluded that aspects of the proposed program would be illegal, then reversed that conclusion at the request of policy makers, then prosecutors could make a case that the officials knowingly broke the law.