There has been much rhetoric with regard to the memorandums prepared by President Bush’s Justice Department regarding how — not if but how — prisoners of the United States would be tortured.
The memos detail violations of treaties to which the United States is a party. Thus, they point to violations of U.S. law.
But they also detail assaults on the 8th amendment to the Constitution, which bars cruel and usual treatment of those confined by U.S. authorities.
The rhetoric runs the gamut from the frustratingly inappropriate — President Obama’s line that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past” — to the refreshing — MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann’s response to Obama: “Mr. President, you are wrong. What you describe would be not “spent energy” but catharsis.”
But the question remains: What happens when we move beyond rhetoric to action?
What, then, should be done?
Let’s begin with the basic premise that action is necessary.
As Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, says: “The details made public in these memos paint a horrifying picture and reveal how the Bush administration’s lawyers and top officials were complicit in torture. The so-called enhanced interrogation program was a violation of our core principles as a nation and those responsible should be held accountable.”
There are so many abuses that demand a response — up to and including those of former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney — that some ask: Where should we begin?
To that question, there is an easy and appropriate answer.
Key memos on torture techniques were prepared in 2002 by Jay Bybee, who then served as assistant Attorney General. Indeed, as the PBS program “Frontline” noted in its review of the abuses at the Department of Bush: “The most notorious document among the memos drafted by President Bush’s legal advisers as they analyzed how far the U.S. could go to extract intelligence from those captured in the war on terror is known as the ‘Bybee memo.'”
The Senate Armed Services Committee report on the torture memos also points to Bybee: “The other OLC opinion issued on August 1, 2002 is known commonly as the Second Bybee memo. That opinion, which responded to a request from the CIA, addressed the legality of specific interrogation tactics. While the full list of techniques remains classified, a publicly released CIA document indicates that waterboarding was among those analyzed and approved.”
Now that the materials have been declassified, thanks to the work of the American Civil Liberties Union. we know that waterboarding was just one of many torture techniques approved and encouraged by the lawyer for the dark side.
But, of course, Bybee no longer serves as a government lawyer.
He is no longer an assistant Attorney General.
Bybee is now a judge serving on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
His is a lifetime appointment, from which he cannot be fired.
But Bybee can be impeached.
Bybee must be impeached — not as a conclusion to an accountability moment but as a beginning.
Activists have begun a campaign to Impeach Bybee.
Learn about the campaign at ww.impeachbybee.org
Progressive Democrats of America is urging Americans to contact Congress with the message:
Former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee was the primary author of “legal” memos purporting to justify torture, including memos long known to the public and two memos recently released by the Department of Justice from March 13, 2002, and June 8, 2002. The June 8th memo claims to justify depriving an American citizen of the right to a trial, claiming the power to imprison him without charge on the grounds that he was already guilty in the eyes of the memo’s author, Jay Bybee.
We have learned, through a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other sources, of the brutal torture techniques employed in our name over the last several years. Bybee’s signature is on the August 1, 2002, memo listing the supposedly “legal” illegal techniques.
He is now serving as a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. A man who abuses his power to facilitate violation of laws and treaties banning torture has no business reversing the decisions of honest judges and juries.
Please introduce right away either articles of impeachment or a bill requiring the House Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation into Jay Bybee.
Impeaching Bybee is a good place to begin.
This author of the unconstitutional and immoral torture memo has no place on the federal bench.
But those who contact Congress might want to add an appeal:
Impeaching Bybee is the right start. But it is just a start. All of the torture advocates can and must be held to account — not merely by the courts but by Congress.