Jay Bybee has become a focus of civil-libertarian anger not just because of his role in drafting OLC memos that "legalized" torture but because he is a sitting federal judge. Today, Bybee began his public charm offensive in a piece for The Washington Post, which contains a number of quotes from friends and associates saying things like "On the primary memo, that legitimated and defined torture, he just felt it got away from him." Bybee should fire whoever is organizing his public outreach. The Post piece completely undercuts the idea that Bybee and the administration didn't know the methods they were using was torture, despite Bybee's own legal arguments. Rather than defending the notion that the methods Bybee approved were not torture, his friends are confirming that Bybee knew the methods were torture, and that's why he feels bad now. But there's no "feeling bad about breaking the law" exception to breaking the law. You're no less legally liable because you feel bad about what you did.

But this final passage is what is truly devastating:

Bybee's friends said he never sought the job at the Office of Legal Counsel. The reason he went back to Washington, Guynn said, was to interview with then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales for a slot that would be opening on the 9th Circuit when a judge retired. The opening was not yet there, however, so Gonzales asked, "Would you be willing to take a position at the OLC first?" Guynn said.

Being unable to answer for what followed is "very frustrating," said Guynn, who spoke to Bybee before agreeing to be interviewed.

So Bybee knew he was breaking the law in allowing the use of torture, but you have to understand, he only did it because he really wanted to be a federal judge. That's not exculpatory information, that's motive.

-- A. Serwer

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