Protesters hound federal judge who crafted torture memos for Bush
By André Coleman , Megan Sebestyen 07/09/2009
US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee had just finished hearing oral arguments in the case of Sprint
v. Palos Verdes on Monday when Susan Harmon stood up and asked a question.
“We’re here to ask you when you’re
going to resign,” said Harmon, a Bay Area member of the group Progressive
Democrats of America, as she stared defiantly at the judge. Bybee did not
respond while guards dressed in blue blazers removed Harmon and two other women
from the courthouse.
“We will follow you,” Harmon vowed
before being escorted out of the stately West Pasadena courtroom and rejoining
a dozen protesters standing in front of the building.
Joining Harmon Monday were members
of her organization and the anti-war groups Code Pink and the World Can’t Wait,
all of which have been calling for Bybee’s resignation or impeachment since
April, when President Obama declassified documents showing Bybee was an
architect of former President George W. Bush’s torture policies.
In 2002, Bybee — then with the US
Justice Department — authored a memo in response to a CIA inquiry asking for a
definition of torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. Bybee wrote
that physical interrogation of prisoners would not be considered torture unless
it threatens to cause “serious physical injury, such as organ failure,
impairment of bodily function, or even death,” or “significant psychological
harm of significant duration” lasting for months or even years.” Bybee then
approved several “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including extended sleep
deprivation and water boarding.
“We were working on impeaching
Bush,” said Tobi Dragert of Glendale, former head of the Los Angeles-based
Impeachment Center. “Now we are working on accountability, but so far [the
Obama administration is] more interested in health care than prosecuting these
At the time of Bybee’s Senate
confirmation in 2003, lawmakers did not have access to his memo and others
written about torture, which were still classified. Since the memo has become
public, US Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, head of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, has called for Bybee to resign. Pasadena’s Congressman, Adam Schiff,
a member of the House Judiciary Committee, has also said that Bybee should
consider stepping down.
But after declassifying the
documents, the Obama administration has sought to protect another former
Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, author of a second memo. “This
administration has made no secret of the fact that it disagrees with the
previous administration’s approach to many legal issues in the national
security arena,” Matthew Miller, spokesman for the Justice Department, said in
a written statement. “Nevertheless, the Department of Justice generally defends
employees and former employees in lawsuits that are filed in connection to
their official duties.”
“You can’t stay silent in the face of something like this,” said protester and actor David Clennon. “It should disgust all of us.”