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Profile: Jay S. Bybee

 
  

Positions that Jay S. Bybee has held:

  • Head of the Office Legal Counsel


 

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Jay S. Bybee actively participated in the following events:

 
  

August 1, 2002      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, sends a non-classified memo to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, offering the opinion that a policy allowing suspected al-Qaeda members to be tortured abroad “may be justified.” The memo explains that as “Commander-in-Chief, the President has the constitutional authority to order interrogations of enemy combatants to gain intelligence information concerning the military plans of the enemy.” This judgment—which will be echoed in a March 2003 draft Pentagon report (see March 6, 2003) —ignores important past rulings such as the 1952 Supreme Court decision in Youngstown Steel and Tube Co v. Sawyer, which determined that the president, even in wartime, is subject to US laws. The DOJ memo asserts that international laws against torture “may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogation” conducted against alleged terrorists. The memo also attempts to provide a precise legal definition of torture. It says that physical torture “must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” and psychological interrogation methods must result in harm lasting “months or even years” to rise to the level of torture. The memo responds to a CIA request for legal guidance on the interrogation of al-Qaeda leaders. [The Washington Post, 6/9/2004] After the memo's existence is revealed, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft denies senators' requests to release it and refuses to say if or how the president was involved in the discussion. “The president has a right to hear advice from his attorney general, in confidence,” he says. [The Washington Post, 6/9/2004; New York Times, 6/8/2004; Bloomberg, 6/8/2004] Responding to questions about the memo, White House press secretary Scott McClellan will reason that the memo “was not prepared to provide advice on specific methods or techniques,” but was “analytical.” But the 50-page memo seems to have been considered immensely important, given its length and the fact that it was signed by Jay S. Bybee, head of the Office Legal Counsel. “Given the topic and length of opinion, it had to get pretty high-level attention,” Beth Nolan, a former White House Counsel (1999-2001), will tell The Washington Post. This view is confirmed by another former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer who tells the newspaper that unlike documents signed by deputies in the Office of Legal Counsel, memorandums signed by the Office's head are considered legally binding. [The Washington Post, 6/9/2004]
People and organizations involved: Beth Nolan, Scott McClellan, Jay S. Bybee, Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft
          

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