Reid not ready to impeach Bybee

Despite calls for the federal judge's impeachment over his involvement in the Bush torture memos, the Senate majority leader isn't rushing into anything.

Published April 24, 2009 4:50PM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former President George W. Bush seem to have at least one thing in common: Both often appear impervious to the desires of the political left.

Reid has frequently been maligned by Democrats and liberals for being overly willing to cede to the wishes of Senate Republicans and the former Bush administration, and comments issued from Reid's office yesterday about Judge Jay Bybee, who serves on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals aren't going to help that reputation. Asked about whether or not Reid believes Bybee should be impeached for his participation in providing the legal framework for the use of techniques such as waterboarding during interrogations of detainees, a spokesman for Reid hedged, writing in an email: "Judge Bybee has a good professional reputation in Nevada... While the memos that have been released are disturbing to Sen. Reid, at this point in time, he doesn't think we should be making a rush to judgment. The Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility is reviewing this matter and he will wait to see what they have to say before making a decision."

While serving as an assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, Bybee helped to craft the memos that provided legal backing for the use of abusive interrogation techniques. This involvement has to led to a growing Internet campaign seeking his impeachment as well as angry editorials asking for his removal.    

Reid has also resisted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's request to create an independent commission to investigate the interrogation tactics. In a recent statement, Reid said, "I think it would [sic] very unwise from my perspective to start having commissions, boards, tribunals until we find out what the facts are.”

Reid sponsored Bybee's judicial appointment, along with fellow Nevada Senator John Ensign. Ensign has been adamant in his support of Bybee, referring to the calls for the judge's ouster as "outrageous" and saying that "This was not torture. This is the thing we have to get away from, that this is somehow accepted that it was torture. The United States does not engage in torture. This was 'advanced interrogation techniques.'"

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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