So much for Bybee’s ‘regret’

SO MUCH FOR BYBEE’S ‘REGRET’…. The Washington Post ran a lengthy piece on Sunday, noting Jay Bybee’s alleged “regret” over his role in writing Bush administration torture memos. The federal appeals court judge didn’t actually talk to the Post, but it quoted several people close to Bybee who said they’ve heard the former OLC official “express regret at the contents of the memo.” Another source said Bybee “was not pleased” with the memo that bore his name.

This week, however, Bybee responded directly to New York Times questions and didn’t sound especially remorseful.

Judge Jay S. Bybee broke his silence on Tuesday and defended the conclusions of legal memorandums he had signed as a Bush administration lawyer that allowed use of several coercive interrogation practices on suspected terrorists. […]

[H]e said: “The central question for lawyers was a narrow one; locate, under the statutory definition, the thin line between harsh treatment of a high-ranking Al Qaeda terrorist that is not torture and harsh treatment that is. I believed at the time, and continue to believe today, that the conclusions were legally correct.”

Other administration lawyers agreed with those conclusions, Judge Bybee said.

“The legal question was and is difficult,” he said. “And the stakes for the country were significant no matter what our opinion. In that context, we gave our best, honest advice, based on our good-faith analysis of the law.”

So much for Bybee’s “regret.”

What’s more, Faiz Shakir reminds us that the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting a review of lawyers who endorsed the torture policies, including Bybee. Charlie Savage reported, “If it turned out that the lawyers initially concluded that aspects of the proposed program would be illegal, then reversed that conclusion at the request of policy makers, then prosecutors could make a case that the officials knowingly broke the law.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.