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Legal Ethics

Bybee a No-Show at ‘Circus’ Hearing on Interrogation Memos

Posted May 14, 2009 7:59 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says he doesn’t blame U.S. Appeals Judge Jay Bybee for being a no-show at a congressional hearing yesterday on Justice Department memos approving harsh interrogation techniques for suspected terrorists.

Graham questioned why Bybee would want to appear in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee "circus,” the National Law Journal reports. "If I were his lawyer, I would tell him no," Graham told reporters.

Bybee, now a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco, isn’t the only former Justice Department official who stayed away. Others who have declined appearances were John Yoo, now a law professor, and Steven Bradbury, the story says.

Democrats had another view, according to the story. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the committee could assume the information Bybee would have provided was not helpful to his cause. "I assume he had no exonerating information to provide," Leahy said.

Democrats and Republicans also clashed over whether the former lawyers should be investigated for writing the memos. And witnesses appearing before the committee differed on the propriety of the lawyers’ conduct in writing the opinions.

Georgetown University law professor David Luban said the lawyers made "frivolous arguments" that were designed to get the results they wanted, the story says. Robert Turner, associate director of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia, said the arguments were legitimate under the Geneva Conventions.

Other coverage:

New York Times: “Bitter Start to a Hearing on Interrogation Tactics”

Washington Post: “Ex-Official Testifies About Efforts to Halt Harsh Tactics”

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