Judge Bybee: Regrets, I've Had A Few

I'm torn, I really am. What Bybee did was amoral and despicable, and he deserves to be impeached. But it's not too difficult to figure out that Bybe

I'm torn, I really am. What Bybee did was amoral and despicable, and he deserves to be impeached. But it's not too difficult to figure out that Bybee is being made a sacrifice of sorts. The Villagers are hoping if they throw him under the bus, it will appease the angry mobs. The other thing is, he's much easier to hold culpable and punish than the rest of them. (He's Lynndie England.)

Of course Bybee should suffer consequences - no argument here. But don't forget, the people at the top made the policy decisions. Don't be distracted by someone who is essentially low-hanging fruit, even if the Post is trying to protect him with this story (composed mostly of anonymous sources):

Five years along in his new life as a federal judge, Bybee gathered the lawyers and their dates for a reunion, telling them he was proud of the legal work they had together produced.

And then, according to two of his guests, Bybee added that he wished he could say the same about his previous position.

It was, in the private room of a public restaurant, the kind of joyless judgment that some friends and associates say the jurist arrived at well before the public release of four additional memos last week and the resulting uproar that has engulfed Washington. One of the documents, dated Aug. 1, 2002, offered a helpfully narrow definition of torture to the CIA and soon became known as the "Bybee memo," because it bore his signature.

"I've heard him express regret at the contents of the memo," said a fellow legal scholar and longtime friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity while offering remarks that might appear as "piling on." "I've heard him express regret that the memo was misused. I've heard him express regret at the lack of context -- of the enormous pressure and the enormous time pressure that he was under. And anyone would have regrets simply because of the notoriety."

That notoriety worsened this week as the documents -- detailing the acceptable application of waterboarding, "walling," sleep deprivation and other procedures the Bush administration called "enhanced interrogation methods" -- prompted calls from human rights advocates and other critics for criminal investigations of the government lawyers who generated them.

[...] Still, in the years since the original Bybee memo was made public, his misgivings appeared evident to some in his immediate circle.

"On the primary memo, that legitimated and defined torture, he just felt it got away from him," said the fellow scholar. "What I understand that to mean is, any lawyer, when he or she is writing about something very complicated, very layered, sometimes you can get it all out there and if you're not careful, you end up in a place you never intended to go. I think for someone like Jay, who's a formalist and a textualist, that's a particular danger."

Tuan Samahon, a former clerk who recalled Bybee's remarks at the reunion dinner, said in an e-mail that the judge defended the legal reasoning behind the memos but not the policy decision. Bybee was disappointed by what was done to prisoners, saying that "the spirit of liberty has left the republic," Samahon said.

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