Thursday, August 16, 2007

Senator Says He Will Block C.I.A. Nomination

The New York Times:

A Democratic senator said he would indefinitely block President Bush’s nominee to become the C.I.A.'s top lawyer.

“I’m going to keep the hold until the detention and interrogation program is on firm footing, both in terms of effectiveness and legality,” said Senator Ron Wyden (pictured) of Oregon.

Mr. Wyden said he was troubled that John Rizzo, who is the Central Intelligence Agency’s interim general counsel, did not object to a 2002 memo authorizing interrogation techniques that stop just short of inflicting pain equal to that accompanying organ failure or even death.

Mr. Wyden also said he was concerned that an executive order issued last month by Mr. Bush did not clarify legal guidelines regarding detentions and interrogations.

BACKGROUND - ThinkProgress, June 19, 2007:

Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a confirmation hearing for John Rizzo, President Bush’s nominee to become the C.I.A.’s general counsel.

Rizzo has served as an acting general counsel “off and on for the past six years, serving without Senate confirmation.” During his tenure, the CIA has engaged in a wide variety of highly questionable and potentially illegal interrogation practices.

In 2002, Rizzo approved of a memo drafted by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that stretched the definition of torture in order to make torture permissible in the course of an interrogation. To be torture, the Bybee memo concluded, physical
pain must be “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

Sen. Ron Wyden asked Rizzo at the hearing, “Do you think you should have objected at the time?” to the Bybee definition of torture. Rizzo answered, “I honestly — I can’t say I should have objected at the time.” To which Wyden replied, “I think that’s unfortunate because it seems to me that language on a very straightforward reading is over the line. And that’s what I think all of us wanted to hear — is that you wish you had objected.” Watch it here.

Also during the hearing, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked Rizzo “whether we’ve ever rendered detainees to countries which use torture.” Rizzo said “it’s difficult to give a yes or no answer” in a public hearing and asked that he provide an answer in closed session. Levin noted that in Dec. 2005, Bush said “we do not render to countries that use torture.”

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