Jay Bybee, the former Bush-era head of the Office of Legal Counsel who helped craft the legal justifications for torture, admitted that some interrogators went beyond the guidelines laid out in the torture memos, reports Jason Leopold:
Bybee, whose responses to questions appears to be an attempt to absolve himself of culpability, told House Judiciary Committee members that interrogators who employed techniques that deviated from the guidelines contained in the torture memos he signed acted without the approval of OLC.
"If the CIA departed from anything that it told us here, if it had any other information that it didn't share with us or if it came into any information that would differ from what they told us here, then the CIA did not have an opinion from OLC, " and the interrogation was not "authorized," Bybee said, according to the transcript of his interview, released by the Judiciary Committee Thursday.
Attorney General Eric Holder initiated a very limited investigation of those interrogators who went beyond the guidelines established by the OLC. Personally, I agree with Holder that those who stayed within the guidelines shouldn't be prosecuted -- intelligence officers make a commitment to serve their country, and if anything, the Bush administration exploited that commitment and violated their trust by encouraging them to go beyond the law.
The ACLU has taken the opportunity to argue that Bybee's testimony means Holder should expand the investigation to include the administration officials who assembled the legal architecture justifying torture. This afternoon they released this statement from National Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer:
The documents released today shed further light on the origins of the Bush administration’s torture program. They also make it even clearer that the Justice Department needs to conduct a comprehensive criminal investigation. In recent months, many other countries – including some of America’s closest allies – have begun to examine their responsibility for the abuse and torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. Indeed, the United States is increasingly isolated in its unwillingness to investigate the roots of the torture program, its refusal to compensate torture survivors and its failure to hold accountable the senior government officials who authorized interrogators to use torture. Judge Bybee’s testimony underscores what we’ve been saying for a long time: that the Justice Department should be conducting an investigation that encompasses not just low-level interrogators but senior government officials who authorized torture.
The fact that Britain is conducting its own investigation while the United States "looks forward" is embarrassing. The sad part is I think this may just be a function of the skittishness of the Democratic Party -- if the GOP had taken power in the midst of lingering evidence of criminal wrongdoing on behalf of a Democratic administration, do you think they would have hesitated to investigate?