Conyers to torture memo author: Testify voluntarily or face subpoena
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has threatened to subpoena several former officials in the Bush administration if they do not agree to testify about their roles in the preparation of the so-called "torture memos" that authorized severe interrogation tactics in the war on terror.
Conyers (D-MI) sent letters to former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Yoo, Chief of Staff to the Vice President David Addington, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
In each of the letters, Conyers provides a May 2 deadline for response or, he says, "I will have no choice but to consider the use of compulsory process."
The three officials have offered various excuses as to why they are unable to testify, but Conyers said those excuses are not good enough.
"Today we face a severe national challenge over charges related to the allegedly harsh treatment of detainees in U.S. custody, reportedly done with legal authorization of the Department of Justice and explicit approval from the highest officials in our government," Conyers wrote to Addington (.pdf). "These are serious matters that substantially impact our national security, the safety and well-being of our troops around the world, and our nation's legal and moral standing. ... [M]ultiple sources place you at the center of these momentous events."
Conyers goes on to recount reports that Addington helped shape the infamous Bybee memo authorizing harsh interrogation techniques and that he was the author of a legal memo arguing that some provisions of the Geneva Conventions were "quaint."
In letters to lawyers representing Yoo (.pdf) and Ashcroft (.pdf), Conyers said they had provided no basis for refusing to testify about the memos at a planned hearing May 6, and he said concerns about executive privilege weren't enough to simply turn down the invitation.
"Such issues are properly addressed on a question-by-question basis, as current DOJ officials have done, not by a blanket refusal to testify," Conyers wrote.
Whether the subpoena threat will have its desired affect remains to be seen, but the Bush administration and its former members have been adept at delaying testimony and ignoring congressional subpoenas.
The House issued contempt of Congress citations against White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former counsel Harriet Miers in February. Those came six months after Bolten and Miers ignored subpoenas from Conyers' committee, and the issue is still tied up in court.