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Conyers Seeks Testimony on Torture From Bush Officials

Picking a new fight with the White House, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has invited several current and former Bush administration officials to testify May 6 on the legality of the administration’s interrogation policy.

On Friday, Conyers sent letters to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former CIA Director George Tenet, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Chief of Staff to Vice President Cheney David Addington and former Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin.

On April 8, Conyers invited the testimony of the alleged architect of that policy — former Justice Department Office of Legal Council aide John Yoo, who is now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

“New and troubling allegations suggest that the decisions on torture came from the highest levels of government,” said Conyers in a statement. “These reports, if true, represent a stain on our democracy. The American people deserve to hear directly from those involved.”

Yoo wrote a controversial March 2003 memo authorizing the use of harsh interrogation tactics on detainees held overseas as long as they were not intended to torture. News reports this week indicated that officials at the highest levels of the Bush administration signed off on the coercive questioning methods.

In inviting the officials, Conyers may be asking for yet another battle headed to the courts over the scope of executive privilege. White House lawyers are currently battling out with Congressional Democrats over the refusal of former and current Bush aides to testify before the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. attorneys matter.

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