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Congressman Calls for Impeachment of Bybee over Torture Memos

Posted Apr 21, 2009 6:32 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Democratic congressman is calling for the impeachment of a federal appeals judge for his Justice Department memos approving harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is the first member of Congress to call for the impeachment of Jay Bybee, a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News.

The New York Times also called for impeachment in a Sunday editorial.

In a 2002 memo released last week, Bybee gave detailed legal approval for waterboarding and “walling,” in which a suspect’s shoulders are banged against a flexible wall. He also allowed interrogators to exploit an al-Qaida detainee’s fear of insects. The plan was to place a caterpillar in a box with Abu Zubaydah and to tell him the insect could sting. The idea was never carried out.

Nadler called the memo “an instruction manual on how to break the law.”

"Any special prosecutor on torture would have to look at the authors of those torture memos," Nadler said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "And certainly you have real grounds to impeach him once the special prosecutor took a good look at that. I think there ought to be an impeachment inquiry looked at in any event. Which should happen first, I'm not sure."

Legal Pad wanted to know what Republicans think of the impeachment idea. The ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith, opposes it.

“If Congress gets into the habit of impeaching federal judges for legal advice provided while serving in the administration, no good lawyer in their right mind would join the administration!” Smith told Legal Pad in an e-mail. “Even government lawyers must be free to provide legal advice and counsel without fear of retribution from politicians. Mr. Bybee was asked to provide his legal—not personal—opinion regarding interrogation techniques. He should not now be punished for doing his job.”

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