It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
SCOTT HORTON, ATTORNEY, HARPER'S MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: When I got those memoranda on April 16, I immediately went to that August 2002 Bybee memorandum, read it. And at the end I remember seeing his signature there and thinking, how could someone who wrote this now be sitting as a federal judge? It's just astonishing. Jay Bybee held a number of posts in the Bush administration. He comes from a background in Republican politics, and also as a legal academic—he was on the faculty of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. But he had worked in Washington for a considerable period of time, and his last stop before he went on the bench was as assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, which is essentially that part of the Department of Justice that writes the attorney general's opinions. While he was heading the Office of Legal Counsel, it began to systematically undermine the role of the laws of war—the Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, and so forth—and also international human rights protection, especially the Convention against Torture. It was within the six weeks after the disclosures of Abu Ghraib. Then a number of publications got their hands on would have [come] to be known as the "torture memoranda." And the first of these, from August 2002, was a memorandum from Jay Bybee to Alberto Gonzalez. When these memos first came out, the defense was immediately that, well, this is just lawyers giving abstract legal advice, no more than that. These lawyers certainly weren't involved in any intimate way in the process of crafting these techniques for interrogation.
BRUCE ACKERMAN, STERLING PROF. OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, YALE UNIV: At that time, I wasn't really as clear as I am today—or we are since last week, really—as to how serious these memos and how detailed and how particular they were and how much he actually understood. You see, the first memo was full of legal abstractions, but this new memo is full of particulars about how much waterboarding you can do within a day and this kind of thing (only two two-hour sessions and the like) and how precisely you can take a person and bang his head against the wall. Well, this puts a new cast on this.
HORTON: How can you have law issued by the president that's secret? Here it's very clear why it's been kept secret. The instant the legal rationale is exposed to the sunlight, it would immediately be ridiculed; it wouldn't be able to hold its head up in any sort of legal discourse with legal authorities, as in fact happened with these memoranda. They were eviscerated by the bar and by legal experts instantly when they became public. Even within the Bush administration, they were rescinded on the basis of recognition that they were completely untenable in terms of legal rationale and analysis. They were advancing positions that are completely ridiculous. There are a large array of precedents discussing these techniques, none of which are presented and talked about in the memorandum. So, you know, we have a sort of reverse-engineered memo that has decisions that the administration wants, and then it just cobbled together some sort of completely ridiculous analysis in order to justify those decisions. So that makes them, really, the ultimate crafters of the torture system.
ACKERMAN: Judge Bybee was greatly advantaged by an accident. His Senate hearing occurred just at the moment when Colin Powell was testifying at the United Nations and giving the American government's case for, basically, invading Iraq, so almost all the senators were watching the TV outside the hearing room. All the Democrats were. This was of central importance for the Democratic senators in particular to define their position. One could appreciate why they were watching the tube rather than questioning Judge Bybee.
(OFF CAMERA): —finish the hearings as soon as we can, but—.
ACKERMAN: So there was no critical questioning at all at the hearing room, and that does not normally happen.