US appellate judge declines to testify on interrogation memos he approved at Justice Dept.

US judge declines to give interrogation testimony

WASHINGTON — U.S. Circuit Judge Jay Bybee has declined to give Senate testimony on the memos he approved while at the Justice Department that supported harsh interrogation methods for detainees.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced at a Senate hearing Wednesday that Bybee turned down his invitation to appear. Leahy did not provide details.

Leahy had asked Bybee to explain his views on the legality of the extreme interrogation methods and the role he played.

Bybee, a judge on the California-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from October 2001 through March 2003. He signed off on four memos related to the policy.

During his 2003 confirmation hearing, Bybee declined to answer questions about his work in the Legal Counsel’s office.

In the summer of 2004, Leahy noted, more than a year after his confirmation, a memo signed by Bybee on Aug. 1, 2002, became public.

The memo interpreted the federal anti-torture statute as only prohibiting pain equivalent to “the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

“There is significant concern about the legal advice provided by OLC while you were in charge, how that advice came to be generated, the considerations that went into it, and the role played by the White House,” Leahy wrote.

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