Bybee targeted by Spanish judge


 WASHINGTON -- Las Vegas federal judge Jay Bybee could face a new inquiry over the so-called "torture memo" he signed in 2002 as a high ranking attorney in the Department of Justice.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that a judge in Spain is seeking a criminal investigation of a half dozen former Bush administration officials.  The allegation is that they violated international law by providing a legal framework leading to the torture of prisoners in the war against terrorism.

Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales heads the list,  along with Douglas J. Feith, the former undersecretary of defense;  William J. Haynes II,  former Defense Department general counsel; David Addington,  who was chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney;  Bybee; and John Yoo, who worked under Bybee in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

The paper reported human rights groups have been asking judges in different countries to indict Bush administration officials over the mistreatment of captives at the Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere.

"But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States," the Times reported.

Bybee,  who headed the Office of Legal Counsel,  in August 2002 signed off on the now-infamous legal opinion that narrowed the definition of "torture" in a way that opened to door to the use of waterboarding and other extreme interrogation methods on captives from Iraq and Afghanistan.

That opinion, believed to be written by Yoo, has been attacked as an attempt to shape the law to fit the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies.   But defenders    say the work of the attorneys is being unfairly second-guessed.

In March 2003, before the disclosure of the legal memo, Bybee was confirmed to become a judge in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  He has declined all requests to comment on the issue,  including one made to him Monday through a court spokesman.