Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee issued a statement to the New York Times defending his legal work on Office of Legal Council memos in 2002 that authorized the use of brutal interrogation techniques critics say amount to torture.
Amid calls for his impeachment, Bybee said he issued the statement to correct news reports citing friends and colleagues who said he’s privately expressed regret about his work at OLC. The story was first reported earlier this month in The Recorder, a California legal newspaper, and its central anecdotes were later picked up by Slate, a front-page Washington Post story, and today in the New York Times.
Bybee, who is now represented by high-profile appellate lawyer Maureen Mahoney at Latham & Watkins, told the Times he should have sharpened his analysis in the memos to help the public better understand. But he added:
“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.”
Colleagues of Bybee in Las Vegas, where he is a well regarded judge, said they had difficulties reconciling the Bybee of the torture memos with the low-key and judicious Bybee they know. Christopher L. Blakesley, a colleague on the law school faculty at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, told the paper that while he liked Judge Bybee, “he has some basic flaws including being very naïve about leaders.” Namely: “He has too much respect for authority and will avoid a confrontation no matter what,” the professor said.