Ensign stands up for judge

LAS VEGAS " Nevada Sen. John Ensign says calls to remove the federal judge who signed a memo authorizing brutal interrogation of terror suspects are "outrageous."

The Republican on Tuesday defended Judge Jay Bybee of Las Vegas and the legal opinion Bybee signed while serving as a senior Justice Department attorney in 2002.

"To call for him to be impeached when he was trying to give the proper legal advice is just ridiculous," Ensign told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "You impeach people for ethical violations, for criminal violations. It would be like impeaching a member of Congress because they voted the wrong way."

Bybee, a senior fellow at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Boyd School of Law, has come under increased scrutiny since the Obama administration released the memo last week.

Bybee wrote that simulated drowning, sleep deprivation, cramped confinement in boxes and other tactics were not torture.

Ensign said he agrees with Bybee's reasoning.

"This was not torture," Ensign said. "This is the thing we have to get away from, that this is somehow accepted that it was torture. The United States does not engage in torture. This was 'advanced interrogation techniques."'

Some in Congress have called for Bybee's removal from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ensign and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid sponsored Bybee's appointment to the bench.

A spokesman for Reid says the Democrat hasn't made a decision on the matter.

"Judge Bybee has a good professional reputation in Nevada," Reid spokesman Jon Summers said in an e-mail. "While the memos that have been released are disturbing to Sen. Reid, at this point in time, he doesn't think we should be making a rush to judgment."

Summers said Reid is awaiting a report from the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility. The office is believed to have completed its review, but results have been not been released publicly.

Bybee was named to the bench in March 2003, two years before the initial disclosures tying him to "torture memos" produced by the Justice Department, where he was head of the Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 until he became a judge.


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