Jay Bybee

Torture Connection: 
Signed off on Yoo's "Torture Memos"
  • Born 1953, Oakland, California.
  • B.A., J.D., Brigham Young University
  • Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, during the Reagan administration
  • Professor of Law, Louisiana State University, University of Nevada at Las Vegas

The Groundwork was Lain Under Bybee

As a top assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft and director of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee participated in meetings at which torture policy was developed and oversaw the laying of the legal groundwork to defend torturers and torture policy. He was present at meetings during which top officials from the White House, CIA, Department of Defense, FBI, and Vice-President’s Office proposed and fleshed out plans for extreme interrogation programs.

Yoo's Relationship to Bybee

Although it is believed that Bybee’s assistants, notably including John Yoo, contributed significantly to the formulation of the memos at issue, they all went out over Bybee’s signature. Yoo has claimed credit for the memos of August 1, 2002, that are often referred to as the “torture memos” and/or the “Bybee memos.” Bybee certainly signed off on these documents, even if the wording is Yoo’s. The memos attempted to narrow the definition of the term torture so that practices undertaken by the U.S. government would not be circumscribed in any way by laws or treaties restricting torture.

Bybee and Abu Ghraib

In June 2004, after Bybee had left the Justice Department to take a seat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted, and redacted versions of some of the “torture memos” became public. Jack Goldsmith, Bybee’s successor, retracted the memos, albeit without a determination that programs based on them were illegal. Because Cheney’s office and other administration officials resisted any suggestion that the Bybee memos might be inappropriate, Goldsmith submitted his resignation along with the retraction.

Sources on Jay Bybee