Rep. Jerry Nadler, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, called Monday for the impeachment of federal judge Jay Bybee, one of the principal authors of the torture memos released last week by the Obama administration.
"He ought to be impeached," Nadler said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "It was not an honest legal memo. It was an instruction manual on how to break the law."
Nadler, a New York congressman, is chairman of Judiciary's Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee. Bybee is currently serving a lifetime term on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, appointed in 2003 and confirmed before it was publicly known that he had authorized the torture of detainees.
Nadler is meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday to argue that the release of the torture memos further buttresses a call he had made earlier for a special prosecutor on torture.
"Any special prosecutor on torture would have to look at the authors of those torture memos," said Nadler. "And certainly you have real grounds to impeach him once the special prosecutor took a good look at that. I think there ought to be an impeachment inquiry looked at in any event. Which should happen first, I'm not sure."
On Sunday, the New York Times called for Bybee's impeachment in an editorial. Impeachment hearings would begin in the judiciary committee.
Bybee authorized various forms of torture, including waterboarding, slamming detainees into a wall, hitting them in the face and abdomen, confining them in small boxes with crawling bugs and depriving them of sleep for up to 11 days.
"He should be a target. Yoo should be a target. There are a number of targets," said Nadler, referring to for Bush administration counsel John Yoo, who also authorized torture and is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Bybee, noted Nadler, "is the only one who's a federal court judge now."
Nadler dismissed Obama's call to look forward rather than backward, arguing that the United States is obligated to investigate whether crimes were committed. "This whole call of looking forward rather than backwards -- you can't say that. The fact is, if crimes were committed, we are duty-bound under our law, we must -- the United States must investigate torture if it happened in America. That's the law. And the fact is, the law specifically says that instructions from higher officials is not an excuse. And we are obligated to investigate and, if indicated, to prosecute. The failure to at least investigate would be a violation of law," he said.
UPDATE: Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) is another key Judiciary subcommittee chair, and says in a statement to the Huffington Post that she is "uncomfortable" with Bybee serving as a federal judge and "that if we fail to act on these detestable facts, we are sending the wrong message." She stopped inches short, however, of outright calling for his impeachment.
During my time as Chairwoman of the Commercial and Administrative Law Judiciary subcommittee, I made it clear that no one is above the law and Congress should hold accountable public servants who dismiss that. Americans spoke loud and clear in November: they were fed up with the Bush administration's disregard of the law.
Bybee twisted legal reasoning to desecrate basic fundamentals of our country, and I am not comfortable with the fact that he will be on the federal bench for a lifetime appointment. While I am pleased that the Obama Administration is fulfilling pledges of transparency, I feel that if we fail to act on these detestable facts, we are sending the wrong message.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has joined the call for Bybee's impeachment, asking citizens to pressure Congress to move against him.
Who is Jay Bybee? Drink in this profile if you're curious.