April 21, 2009

NYT: Impeach Bybee; What About Pelosi?

The New York Times ran an Editorial on Sunday calling for the Impeach of 9th Circuit Judge Jay Bybee, who served as Assistant Attorney General under bush when the memos were written.  
"These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it."
What about Nancy Pelosi and the other congressmen who were briefed on the techniques contained in the memos?  It takes no courage for the NYT to call out these Bush administration lawyers or to suggest putting Gonzales, Rumsfeld, or Cheney on the stand.  If they are truly horrified by the memos and not just looking to score political points, then they should target everyone who knew about the memos and the enhanced interrogation techniques contained in them including the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  Now let's turn to what Pelosi knew and when.

"In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

'The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,' said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange."

As the Director National Inteligence Dennis Blaire put it: "“Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing.”  Apparently on a bright sunny day in September of 2002 they didn't seem so "graphic and disturbing" to Pelosi and company.  As the post article block quoted above went on to say,

"'Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,' said [Porter] Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. 'And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.'"(emphasis added)
Where is the Times in calling out these legislators?  If Bybee is "unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and respect for the Constitution," shouldn't Pelosi be equally unfit for her job as Speaker of the House, which certainly requires respect for the Constitution?  I highly doubt the Times will see it that way.  

Update: Ed Morrissey applies a similar logic to the release that Obama may pursue legal charges against the authors of the "torture memos."

"Obama can open the door to prosecutions, but who will he prosecute?  He’ll find it difficult to go after the interrogators, who relied on some strange opinions from the normally-binding Office of Legal Counsel.  The prosecution can try undermining that by claiming it as a Nuremberg defense, but this wasn’t Nazi Germany and the OLC exists to give this kind of legal direction.  Interrogators relied on those interpretations in good faith.

That leaves George Tenet and the OLC attorneys, but they didn’t conduct the torture, and the OLC didn’t order the interrogations, either.  They responded to a request from the CIA to opine on the legality of the procedures.  Holder can prosecute Tenet, but then he’d also have to file charges against several members of Congress who were briefed on the procedures and never objected — including current Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  If Tenet would get prosecuted for ordering the interrogation techniques, then Pelosi and others would have to get prosecuted for being accessories in not taking action to stop them."

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