Chris Lydon writes to Charles Fried who responds with copy to me about Federal Judge Bybee (who signed the “torture memo”) and the Federalist Society of Harvard Law School purporting to cancel a public meeting at which Bybee was to speak, but actually holding the meeting in secret to avoid protest, only to be greeted by protesters wearing Abu Graib outfits at the meeting’s conclusion. Was the protest peaceful and respectful? Was press present at the protest? Are there photographs? Charles, a “pity” that the Federal judge and the Federalist Society of Harvard Law School were forced into holding a secret meeting by a threat of peaceful protest? On whom does your disapproval fall?
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2006 22:29:46 -0500
To: Christopher Lydon ( chris at christopherlydon.org)
From: Charles Fried
Subject: Re: Shouldn’t we be in the streets about this?
Cc: nesson at law.harvard.edu
Yes, I agree. It is a pity that the threat of disruption should have deprived those who wanted to hear Bybee and question him in an orderly fashion of that opportunity. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
At 05:13 PM 3/10/2006, Chris Lydon had forwarded to Charles Fried:
Torture Memo Judge Greeted by Protests at Harvard
Bybee Speaks at Secret Event After Speech Falsely Cancelled
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, please contact:
Yukyan Lam ( 617 429 4357)
Darryl Li ( 781 789 5967)
Maryam Monalisa Gharavi (617 642 0755)
Cambridge, MA (9 March 2006) — Federal appellate judge Jay Bybee, who
signed the infamous 2002 ‘torture memo,’ was confronted by protesters at
Harvard Law School today after speaking at a closed event.
In August 2002, Bybee, then a high-ranking Justice Department official,
signed the now-infamous ‘torture memo’ establishing a legal framework for
interrogation policies in the ‘Global War on Terror.’ The Bybee memo
distorted international and U.S. law to give a green light for the kinds
of torture and mistreatment documented in Abu Ghrayb, Guantanamo Bay,
Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
Bybee left his speech to find a line of protesters chanting ‘Shame!’ and
wearing black hoods — a reference to the infamous images of the hooded
prisoners abused by U.S. servicemen at Abu Ghrayb prison in Iraq. The
protest was organized by Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights
and the Alliance for Justice in the Middle East at Harvard.
‘The Bybee torture memo paved the way for the systematic abuse of
prisoners in US military detention,’ said Darryl Li, a member of the
Alliance for Justice in the Middle East. ‘Bybee should be under
investigation for his crimes rather than lecturing at Harvard Law School.’
President Bush rewarded Bybee with a lifetime appointment to the US 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003. The Bybee torture memo — which
sanctions detainee abuse as long as it does not cause ‘serious physical
injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even
death’ — aroused such public outrage that the Bush administration was
later forced to repudiate it.
Yale Law School dean Harold Koh described the Bybee torture memo as ‘the
most clearly erroneous legal opinion I have ever read’ and ‘a stain upon
our law and our national reputation.’
Legal experts have identified five major flaws in the Bybee torture memo:
it defines torture so narrowly as to be meaningless; it allows cruel,
inhuman, and degrading treatment, which international law also prohibits;
it allows a torturer to evade criminal responsibility by invoking the
‘just following orders’ defense, reversing decades of judicial precedent;
it explores means of getting around torture laws rather than enforcing
them; and it misreads the Constitution to authorize the president to
violate the law in the name of his ‘Commander-in-Chief’ powers.
Bybee spoke at a closed, unannounced event. The Harvard Federalist
Society, a conservative law students’ organization that sponsored the
event, originally advertised the talk to the Harvard community last week.
On Wednesday, the organization issued a public cancellation, citing a
‘scheduling conflict.’ The event, in fact, had been moved to an
undisclosed location known only to select Federalist Society members.
A broad coalition of students and faculty at the Harvard Law School calls
for Bybee’s impeachment. ‘It is a dark day indeed for our justice system
when those who unapologetically advocate for torture and other deviations
from our national values are allowed to determine the boundaries of our
legal system,’ said Yukyan Lam, a board member of Harvard Law Student
Advocates for Human Rights.
An interesting brief blog at LiveJournal.
Dear Professor Nesson
Thank you for your email. The protest was not only peaceful and
respectful, it did NOT disrupt the talk at all. The protesters made no
attempt to enter the room nor to make noises from outside that would
disrupt the talk. The exclusive scope of the protest was to picket Bybee
as he exited. We held up signs, wore hoods, chanted “shame,” and followed
Bybee as he left the building. All of this was precisely to avoid any
possible accusation of disrupting a closed event to which we were not
There were no journalists present but James Cavallaro and at least one
other faculty/staff member whose name I did not catch (Stephan, Yukyan,
can you help?) observed the whole thing. Some of the protesters were
pushed by Federalist Society members and I understand Cavallaro was as
well but I’m not familiar with the exact details.