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‘Torture Judge’ Is Rewarded By President

‘Torture Judge’ Is Rewarded By President

Judge Jay S. Bybee’s Odd Views On Cruel & Inhuman Punishment Get Him a Lifetime Appointment


By Greg Szymanski


Federal Appeals Court Judge Jay S. Bybee has a strange definition for cruel and unusual punishment. Apparently, the good judge thinks it’s normal to torture and inflict great bodily harm.

Usually, someone with such a radical opinion is thrown off the bench. Usually, a judge like this is patted down to see if he’s hiding a whiskey bottle.

But Bybee’s “tortuous views” sat well with President George W. Bush. They sat so well with the president that in March 2003 Bybee was given a life-time six-figure post on the influential Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest judicial circuit in the land serving California among other states.

Bybee’s August 2002 memo, legally justifying torture, drew only minor opposition. The 49 year old was approved in March 2003 by 74-19 margin in the Senate without very little meaningful debate, even though heavily criticized by outside judicial watchdog groups.

Today, Bybee is back in the news, having purportedly authored the now infamous memo that has plagued attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales during his Senate confirmation hearings.

Some of the strongest criticism of Bybee has come from the lawyer who is representing several widows and family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in lawsuits against the government.

Attorney Phillip Berg’s pointed comments about Bybee were included in a 237-page complaint, accusing President Bush of being involved in a systematic neo-conservative takeover of the government by using 9-11 as the lynchpin to justify fear, terrorism, war and imperialism. The suit, filed against Bush and 55 others, accuses them of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The pre-trial pleadings in such a case allow for an exhaustive presentation of facts, Berg using the opportunity to present a massive neo-con conspiracy case allegedly taking place before, after and during 9-11.

Berg notes that Bush appointed over 200 federal judges since taking office, more than any other president and mostly all of them in-line with the Bush administration’s ideology regarding federal power and national security.

Berg said, like Bybee, most of the appointees share Bush’s “slanted view of justice,” which by itself is “a very scary thought.”

In his lawsuit, he added: “Instead of being fired or better yet disbarred, in the present political climate, [Bybee’s] views so hostile to the Constitution have been rewarded with a lifetime position.

“That such men are allowed to now sit on the federal bench suggests that the American judiciary is being debased by President Bush,” said Berg.

In a case filed on behalf of WTC maintenance worker William Rodriguez, Berg refers to a “despicable and reprehensible” memorandum written for Bush when Bybee was working in Washington as an assistant attorney general in 2002 after 9-11.

At a time when the administration was being heavily criticized for torturing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bybee crafted a creative legal argument justifying the harsh military tactics.

His memorandum gave Bush legal authority to order torture and war crimes, despite international and domestic conventions which forbid it universally.

Bybee’s legal creativity further went on to justify the infliction of torture and other war crimes by military underlings, so long as the torture was not life threatening and so long as it was not administered specifically with that intent.

“The logic of Bybee’s memo is the logic of totalitarianism,” said Berg. “That he was confirmed to such a high office shows that Congress, too, lacks the integrity and courage to defend the Constitution.

“That the major media has but matter-of-factly reported on his appointment, in light of his reprehensible views, shows that they, too, are snugly in the pocket of the neo-cons behind this obvious debasement of the judiciary.”

Other pending judicial nominees for federal circuit court positions include Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owens, who is most remembered for voting to benefit Halliburton and Enron after taking campaign contributions from them.

Also nominated is California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, whose decisions have always come against workers’ rights, senior citizens, protecting children from lead poisoning, etc.

Both the nominations of Brown and Rogers are still pending before Senate investigations after being nominated in 2003.

The Alliance for Justice, a judicial watchdog group that monitors presidential appointments, has opposed both nominations, stating they failed to demonstrate a commitment to protecting the rights of ordinary Americans, one of the standards used by the group in determining a judge’s qualifications.


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