Impeach Judge Jay Bybee

April 19, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Posted in American politics | 3 Comments

Hear! Hear!

In one of the more nauseating passages, Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.

These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors’ statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values.

It sounds like the plot of a mob film, except the lawyers asking how much their clients can get away with are from the C.I.A. and the lawyers coaching them on how to commit the abuses are from the Justice Department. And it all played out with the blessing of the defense secretary, the attorney general, the intelligence director and, most likely, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

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.

Impeach him. He is a disgrace to America. He is not worthy to rule as a judge over anyone!

Andrew Sullivan shares a letter from a reader:

I am a lawyer who has practiced in Washington for more than 20 years. I’m not sure I have the words to describe my reaction upon reading the Bybee memo, but it’s fair to say it sent chills down my spine.
Lawyers are a cynical lot – it comes with the territory – but we all know that we have some basic obligations to our clients. One of them is to tell them the truth, and not to conceal facts or law that the client should know about. Even as you must represent your client zealously in disputes, you are required as an officer of the court not to hide adverse precedent. And failing to tell your client about cases that run against the client’s preferred result is a profound dereliction of duty.
In that context, the Bybee memo is a lawyer’s worst nightmare. It’s an F-minus in law school, a zero on the bar exam, grounds for firing a first-year lawyer for an utter lack of understanding of what the practice of law requires.
It is beyond conception to imagine a competent lawyer not even mentioning the cases when the U.S. prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding, let alone asserting that “there have been no prosecutions” under the specific statute. It is nearly as inconceivable that the memo concludes that the insect technique, used against someone with a known insect phobia, would not cause “severe mental pain.”
The only rational conclusion is that this memo is not, in fact, legal advice at all, at least not in the sense that a lawyer would use the term. None of the people involved in writing are incompetent, after all, and none of them would have made these kinds of elementary mistakes in writing for a private client. It was written purely to provide cover. To do that, Bybee and the others involved in these memos knowingly subordinated their oaths as officers of the court and their ethical obligations to give carte blanche to the interrogators and those who directed them. Perhaps they thought it was their patriotic duty; perhaps they thought that the “chatter” mentioned in the memo created an exigent circumstance that demanded that shortcuts be taken; or perhaps they expected that the memos never would see the light of day. I doubt we’ll ever really know. Regardless of the reason, though, the dull legalese conceals an utter lack of respect for the law and for any constraints that the law might require. And that’s what’s really chilling about it.

That’s about the whole of it. A shameful act, and deserving of impeachment.


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  1. Think Progress set up a petition to get Jay Bybee impeached.

  2. Can we please sleep deprive Bybee and Cheney and find out what they might tell us?

  3. They won’t tell us anything of value. That’s the point. Torture doesn’t work.

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