Obama Hits Back Against Bybee’s Defense: ‘Legal Rationales’ For Torture Memos Were ‘A Mistake’

In tonight’s press conference, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked President Obama if he believes “that the previous administration sanctioned torture,” in light of Obama’s recent release of Bush-era torture memos. Obama refrained from saying the Bush administration committed criminal acts, but he said, “I do believe that it [waterboarding] is torture.” The President added that the legal guidance that Bush lawyers provided were a “mistake”:

QUESTION: Do you believe the previous administration sanctioned torture?

OBAMA: I believe that waterboarding was torture. And I think that the — whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake.

Watch it:

Although Obama has repeatedly said that waterboarding is torture, his response saying that the “legal rationales” were “a mistake” is important because it discredits 9th Circuit Court Judge Jay Bybee’s recent claim that his flawed OLC memos were legally sound.

Yesterday, Bybee “broke his silence” and talked to the New York Times about his torture memos. While anonymous friends of Bybee said that the former OLC head regretted signing off on the torture memos, Bybee defended his memos as legally “correct“:

[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.” […]

“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.

Obama’s belief that the notorious memoranda written by Judge Bybee were legally flawed add further justification to the need for Bybee to resign his seat on the federal court.

Please join our campaign calling on Congress to begin impeachment hearings against Jay Bybee.