Friday, July 16, 2010
Former Bush adviser defends decision to abuse detainees
Anyone -- including, unfortunately, U.S. President Barack Obama -- who thinks the long nightmare that was the George W. Bush administration is behind us should consider what the former official who approved brutal interrogations of terror suspects said the other day. According to transcripts released Thursday, Judge Jay Bybee, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003 and recommended the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques, told Congressional investigators that he stood by his advice. “We took a muscular view of presidential authority,” Bybee said, according to the New York Times. “We were offering a bottom line to a client who wanted to know what he could do and what he couldn’t do. I wasn’t running a debating society, and I wasn’t running a law school.” Bybee's deputy, John Woo, now a law professor at the University of California in Berkeley, wrote the infamous memos approving the use of waterboarding and other invasive techniques and Bybee approved them. Bybee made his comments in closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which is still investigating the conduct of the Central Intelligence Agency during the Bush administration. Bybee was appointed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco after he left the White House but before the contents of the torture memos were revealed publicly. Many of the memos were withdrawn by the government after the contents were leaked to the media. Bybee and Yoo were accused of misconduct after a Justice Department investigation, but its conclusions also were withdrawn. Of course, the point is not only that Bybee was in the middle of some of the worst abuses of power in the nation's history -- it's also that he still thinks he was right. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney also believe they were right to erode respect for the rule of law that has made the United States a great nation, as if ruining the country's great traditions and sacrificing its founding principles could ever be the way to keep it safe.