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Jay S. Bybee's partial regret?

The former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Jay S. Bybee, is back in the news today, although perhaps not of his own volition.

The House judiciary committee has released a transcript of its May interview with Bybee, who signed two key memos sanctioning harsh interrogation methods under the Bush administration. In the transcript, Bybee says that the memo did not authorize some of the specific techniques used.

Bybee, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, has said little publicly about the documents since leaving Washington. In April 2009, The Washington Post published a story about Bybee's life in Las Vegas. At the time, his friends and associates suggested Bybee had expressed private regret about the memo.

"I got the impression that he was not pleased with that bit of scholarship," one said. "I don't know that he 'owned it.' . . . The way he put it was: He was head of the OLC, and it was written, and he was not pleased with it."

Bybee later issued written comments to a New York Times reporter in which he challenged the accounts of his regret and defended the legal thinking behind the memos. "I believed at the time, and continue to believe today, that the conclusions were legally correct," he told the Times.

In the interview released today Bybee was asked about the Post story. He said that he had "expressed some regret."

"I have regrets because of the notoreity that this has brought me," Bybee told the committee. "It has imposed enormous pressures on me both professionally and personally. It has had an impact on my family. And I regret that, as a result of my govenment service, that that kind of attention has been visited on me and on my family."

He also reaffirmed his belief that the conclusions of one key memo were correct. "In terms of the analysis, I am going to stand by the memo,'' he said.

By Jason Ukman and Peter Finn  | July 15, 2010; 4:15 PM ET
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Still can't call it torture can you? ("harsh techniques", "techniques") Under what circumstances does it become or is called torture?

Posted by: spforbes | July 15, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Is there person in public life or service left on the planet -- or even just in this country . . . or DC who has the honor and integrity to admit a mistake?

To just say, "I was wrong", "I made an error in judgment", "I believed it then but I see I was mistaken . . . misled."

Is there so much hubris, such lack of honor, too much insecurity for that to happen?

Our culture has become almost unrecognizable to me. What will become of us when power and greed is all that is left?

At times I could weep.

Posted by: ponderer | July 15, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

By carefully prosecuting only those who went outside the guidelines of the OLC memos we seem to be well on the way to establishing a precedent that "just following orders" is, contrary to the Nuremburg principles, a defense for torture of prisoners after all. Any old Nazis still around who were convicted under the old standards would be justified in demanding an apology and reparations. US veterans of WWII have a right to feel cheated that they fought defending a moral stand abandoned by their progeny.

So it goes.

Posted by: Adam_Smith | July 15, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Judge William Jay Bybee, aka Waterboard Willie, should have a impeachment hearing by the House asap. How can any American expect to have a fair trial and fair punishment from a Judge that thinks Waterboarding is acceptable ?
By having kept his knowledge of the CIA/ Cheney/Bush/Rumfeld Torture program from the Senate Judiciary during his confirmation hearing one has to wonder if Waterboard Willie perjured himself or at the very least misled the Senators.
At one time many of us had thought that Rep. Conyers would be the one to lead the charge against the injustices of the Bush admin., right up until his wife found herself a example of what could happen to him next. Anyone remember what happen to Rep. Conyers wife ?

Posted by: SmileySam | July 16, 2010 5:57 AM | Report abuse

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