In a letter to the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee today, a coalition of human rights and advocacy groups urged the Senate to reject President Bush’s nominee for General Counsel of the CIA, John Rizzo. The coalition, which includes the Center for American Progress Action Fund, objects to Rizzo’s record of sanctioning the use of torture in American interrogation of detainees.
In 2002, Rizzo approved a memo written by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that stretched the definition of torture, arguing that physical pain must be “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” in order to be considered torture.
During Rizzo’s confirmation hearing in June, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked him if he “should have objected at the time” to the Bybee definition of torture. “I honestly — I can’t say I should have objected at the time,” replied Rizzo. Watch it:
Unsatisfied by Rizzo’s answers at the hearing, Wyden has put a hold on his nomination, saying that he is going to keep it “until the detention and interrogation program is on firm footing, both in terms of effectiveness and legality.”
Given Rizzo’s intimate knowledge of the administration’s use of interrogation techniques that are “tantamount to torture,” and his utter refusal to stop them, confirming Rizzo would “send an extraordinarily negative message” to the world about America’s attitude toward the use of torture.