The New York Times called today for investigation and prosecution of John Yoo and Stephen Bradbury, and impeachment of federal judge Jay Bybee:
We do not think Mr. Obama will violate Americans’ rights as Mr. Bush did. But if Americans do not know the rules, they cannot judge whether this government or any one that follows is abiding by the rules.
In the case of detainee abuse, Mr. Obama assured C.I.A. operatives that they would not be prosecuted for actions that their superiors told them were legal. We have never been comfortable with the “only following orders” excuse, especially because Americans still do not know what was actually done or who was giving the orders.
After all, as far as Mr. Bush’s lawyers were concerned, it was not really torture unless it involved breaking bones, burning flesh or pulling teeth. That, Mr. Bybee kept noting, was what the Libyan secret police did to one prisoner. The standard for American behavior should be a lot higher than that of the Libyan secret police.
At least Mr. Obama is not following Mr. Bush’s example of showy trials for the small fry — like Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib notoriety. But he has an obligation to pursue what is clear evidence of a government policy sanctioning the torture and abuse of prisoners — in violation of international law and the Constitution.
That investigation should start with the lawyers who wrote these sickening memos, including John Yoo, who now teaches law in California; Steven Bradbury, who was job-hunting when we last heard; and Mr. Bybee, who holds the lifetime seat on the federal appeals court that Mr. Bush rewarded him with.
These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it.
After eight years without transparency or accountability, Mr. Obama promised the American people both. His decision to release these memos was another sign of his commitment to transparency. We are waiting to see an equal commitment to accountability.
John Amato wrote about it yesterday and called for the impeaching of Bybee.
Will you join me please and Sign the petition? With the revelations that Jay Bybee was in the middle of trying to legalize torture for the Bush administration, particularly with the evidence that he penned the disgusting torture memo in 2002, I fully support all efforts to have this man impeached. The OLC is supposed to give sound legal opinions to the executive branch, not bend the law to fit their sick world view which makes this all the more egregious.
Salon's Joan Walsh has a thoughtful followup here.