As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Update On The Campaign To Impeach Jay Bybee

Since my action on Saturday to spark a grassroots movement to impeach Bush Torture Judge Jay Bybee, there have been multiple developments. With respect to the resolution at the California Democratic Party convention for impeachment, which I think could advance the ball on this greatly, my grassroots petition has gained 3,177 signatures as of 1:45pm PT. And now, I'm proud to say that the Courage Campaign, California's version of, has joined the fight, urging its California residents to support this resolution so that the whole state Democratic Party speaks with one voice about the need to remove the man who justified torture from office.

When President Barack Obama released the contents of President Bush's torture memos, America learned the full extent of the horror that was unleashed at Guanatanamo Bay on detainees. One of the memos was written by Jay Bybee in August 2002. It authorized the use of waterboarding, "cramped confinement", "walling" -- where a detainee's head is repeatedly pushed against a wall -- and even putting insects into a confined space with a detainee.

Jay Bybee is now a federal judge here in California, serving on the important Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco. He has not been held accountable for the lawbreaking he committed and enabled.

The California grassroots are determined to change that. Los Angeles Democratic activists John Heaner, Agi Kessler and Richard Mathews have sponsored a resolution calling on the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against Jay Bybee.

Please join the L.A. County Democratic Party, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, and the Crooks and Liars blog by signing your name in support of this resolution. DEADLINE: Friday 9 AM.

More groups have joined the cause. Progressive Democrats of America has a tool to ask your member of Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings. The Center for Constitutional Rights are also calling for impeachment. And Jerrold Nadler, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has done the same.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, called Monday for the impeachment of federal judge Jay Bybee, one of the principal authors of the torture memos released last week by the Obama administration.

"He ought to be impeached," Nadler said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "It was not an honest legal memo. It was an instruction manual on how to break the law."

Nadler is also calling for a special prosecutor to investigate Bybee and the other architects of torture. But I want to focus on building this movement for impeachment, because we need to start with something tangible as a means to growing this coalition. The case should be more than clear that someone with the appalling judgment to sign their name to a justification of torture simply shouldn't be sitting in judgment of other Americans. Ian Milhiser makes the legal case here:

OLC attorneys are not like other Executive Branch officials because their job is not to advance the President’s agenda or to defend the government’s actions. Rather, the purpose of OLC is to give neutral, disinterested opinions about what the law does or does not require. In this sense, the relationship between an OLC attorney and the President is more like that between a judge and a litigant than it is like that between an attorney and a client.

So Bybee’s memos instructing Executive Branch members that they could exploit a captive’s fear of stinging incects by locking him in a coffin with bugs, or nearly drown that captive, or deprive him of sleep for 11 days at a time, were not simply a lawyer offering incompetent advice on how his client could comply with the law. Rather, these memos were a total abdication of his unique role as an OLC attorney—to tell the President “no” when the law clearly and unambiguously says that what the President wants to do is illegal [...]

The Federal Torture Statute prohibits U.S. officials outside of the United States from inflicting “the threat of imminent death” on another person within his custody. Yet Bybee specifically advised the Bush Administration that they could waterboard detainees; an act which, by definintion, is intended to cause its victim to believe that they are in imminent danger of death by drowning. In other words, it is very unlikely that Bybee was actually providing legal advice to the Bush Administration—if he was, that he should be disbarred for sheer incompetence—and far more likely that he was simply seeking to apply the patina of legitimacy which an OLC opinion provides to the Adminstration’s pre-selected policies. He was far more an accomplice than an advisor.

Those Bush apologists cannot defend the indefensible. Bybee hid the truth during his confirmation hearings and should be compelled to answer for his role in perpetrating war crimes.

I believe the best way to start this is to urge the California Democratic Party to follow the lead of its branch in Los Angeles County, and resolve to impeach Jay Bybee. You can sign my petition to call on the CDP to support the resolution. And you can let the leadership of the California Democratic Party know personally your thoughts on this issue.

Sacramento Office
(916) 442-5707 phone
(916) 442-5715 fax

Los Angeles Office
(310) 407-0980 phone
(310) 407-0981 fax

email contact form

Please get involved in this growing movement. Thanks.

UPDATE: People for the American Way has just jumped aboard. From their email;

Yesterday the New York Times published an editorial calling for the impeachment of U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee, for his role in trying to bend the law to justify the Bush administration's torture policies when he headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Of the memos written by Bybee, the editorial states, "These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution."

We agree.

Please speak out and urge Congress to bring impeachment charges against Jay Bybee.

UPDATE II: The Center For American Progress, a think tank, has through its American Progress Action Fund called on Congress to impeach Jay Bybee. This coalition continues to grow. And Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat and senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, released this statement:

During my time as Chairwoman of the Commercial and Administrative Law Judiciary subcommittee, I made it clear that no one is above the law and Congress should hold accountable public servants who dismiss that. Americans spoke loud and clear in November: they were fed up with the Bush administration's disregard of the law.

Bybee twisted legal reasoning to desecrate basic fundamentals of our country, and I am not comfortable with the fact that he will be on the federal bench for a lifetime appointment. While I am pleased that the Obama Administration is fulfilling pledges of transparency, I feel that if we fail to act on these detestable facts, we are sending the wrong message.

If you're not comfortable with his lifetime appointment, Rep. Sanchez, you have options. Impeach.

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