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Leahy Calls on Bybee to Testify

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has invited Jay Bybee, the former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer and current judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, reports Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post. Is this the beginning of a broader Senate Judiciary Committee probe?

In a letter sent to Bybee on Wednesday, Leahy notes the recent contradictory reports in The Washington Post and The New York Times — one which recounted Bybee saying he regrets signing off on the torture memos while at OLC, the other saying he stands by them. And he offers Bybee “the opportunity to come forward and clarify what you meant in your public discussion of these matters, and so that we can establish the facts and get to the truth.”

Leahy, of course, has been calling on Congress to create a “Truth Commission” or “Commission of Inquiry” that would look broadly at Bush administration policies that authorized the abuse of detainees, but wouldn’t lead to prosecutions. Many Republicans have claimed such a commission is unconstitutional and unnecessary, while President Obama has said it would be too politically divisive and that he prefers to look forward rather than backward. Others have criticized the idea because it could offer immunity to witnesses who some believe should be prosecuted.

In short, it hasn’t had much support.

Meanwhile, Leahy has avoided having the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, hold hearings on the questions of how the OLC memos came to be drafted; what directions the lawyers were given; and exactly how and why they ignored so much of the relevant law that they were able to conclude that brutal interrogation tactics don’t violate the United States’ legal commitments against torture and “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Yet he’s also said repeatedly that those questions need to be answered.

Asked whether he would hold hearings on these questions Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Leahy said he preferred the commission approach, but carefully avoided saying what he’d do if he couldn’t win support for the idea.

Maybe calling Bybee to account for his actions before the Senate Judiciary committee is the beginning of an answer.

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