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Bybee Defends Torture Memorandums

Perhaps he'll have time to modify his position after he's impeached: WASHINGTON — Judge Jay S. Bybee broke his silence on Tuesday and defended the

Perhaps he'll have time to modify his position after he's impeached:

WASHINGTON — Judge Jay S. Bybee broke his silence on Tuesday and defended the conclusions of legal memorandums he had signed as a Bush administration lawyer that allowed use of several coercive interrogation practices on suspected terrorists.

Judge Bybee, who issued the memorandums as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and was later nominated to the federal appeals court by President George W. Bush, said in a statement in response to questions from The New York Times that he continued to believe that the memorandums represented “a good-faith analysis of the law” that properly defined the thin line between harsh treatment and torture.

[...] Until recently, Judge Bybee had been a largely unseen figure in the debate. In contrast, John Yoo, his deputy at the Office of Legal Counsel, who is generally believed to have been the memorandums’ principal author, has defended them regularly. But Judge Bybee has come under renewed attention. Some people have called for his impeachment, he is being investigated by the Justice Department on his professional standards, and he has even become estranged from friends.

Judge Bybee said he was issuing a statement following reports that he had regrets over his role in the memorandums, including an article in The Washington Post on Saturday to that effect. Given the widespread criticism of the memorandums, he said he would have done some things differently, like clarifying and sharpening the analysis of some of his answers to help the public better understand the basis for his conclusions.

But he 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.”

Prof. Christopher L. Blakesley, a colleague on the law school faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said that after the first memorandum was released, he was unable to restrain himself from expressing disagreement at a 2004 dinner at a restaurant that included their wives.

“I asked him how he could sign such an awful thing,” Professor Blakesley recalled in an interview.

He said the judge replied that he could not talk about the matter. The dinner proceeded awkwardly, Professor Blakesley said, and they have not spoken since.

Professor Blakesley said that while he liked Judge Bybee, “he has some basic flaws including being very naïve about leaders.”

John Amato:

What does it mean when he says that he's making a "good-faith analysis" of the law. it either is or it isn't. I don't believe Bybee wrote the memo--I think he signed off on it with Yoo and Addington pointing shotguns at his head. And if he did write it then he should be ashamed, but the I think the prisoners have a much different reaction. it is either torture or it isn't. Having a doctor present to cut open their throats to make sure they can breath is not an excuse to make it acceptable.

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