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Roberts to Be Questioned on Bybee ‘Torture Memoâ€TM

by Brendan Coyne

Aug. 31, 2005 – Democratic senators considering the nomination of John G. Roberts to the US Supreme Court are planning to inquire into the judge’s views on a memo widely believed to be the basis for extreme interrogation techniques employed at US detention facilities in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) has provided the circuit court judge with a copy of the legal document in advance of what may be tense questioning over the nominee’s political views. Leahy met with Roberts Monday to discuss the upcoming confirmation hearings.

Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee authored two memos providing legal cover for the administration of George W. Bush to treat detainees in ways human rights organizations call torture, one in January 2002, the other in August of the same year. Bybee’s opinion defines torture narrowly as to avoid including many interrogation techniques endorsed by the Bush administration.

The Bush administration distanced itself from the memos after they became public and officially retracted the conclusions last year.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Bybee memos are directly tied to known instances of the Central Intelligence Agency being involved in the torture and disappearance of prisoners throughout the world. Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and numerous other civil rights and humanitarian groups have decried the memo and Bybee’s 2003 court appointment.

During next week’s confirmation hearings, Democrats are reportedly planning to ask Roberts to offer his opinion of Bybee’s reasoning. Leahy told the Associated Press: "I don't think a Supreme Court [nomination] hearing is a game of gotcha. I'd really like to know what he thinks."

Reports that Leahy gave the memo to Roberts came as more documents from the Supreme Court nominee’s days working in the administration of deceased president Ronald Reagan were released by the National Archives and Reagan Library.

But other items related to Roberts’s views on affirmative action are reportedly missing. The Toledo Blade reported that administration sources have offered to provide their own notes on the memos, a gesture declined by Senate Democrats.

Leahy declined to comment on his conversation with Roberts.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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