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Legal scholars say condoning abuse
could be impeachable offense

By LOLITA C. BALDOR
Associated Press Writer
June 16, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 400 legal scholars from across the country urged Congress Wednesday to consider impeaching President Bush and any high-level administration officials who approved the Iraqi prisoner abuses.

In a letter released by two Harvard Law School professors, scholars asked Congress to identify everyone who should be held accountable for the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, and determine what sanctions are appropriate. The sanctions, they said, could include "impeachment and removal from office of any civil officer of the United States responsible."

But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., meeting with the professors, declined to specifically address the impeachment issue. He instead said the best way to correct the matter is to "elect John Kerry" president.

He said Democratic senators are trying to round up enough support for a vote Thursday to subpoena the Justice Department for memos that could have laid the legal groundwork for justifying the prisoner abuse. Attorney General John Ashcroft has declined to make public the Justice Department memos, written in 2002.

In the letter, scholars said the prosecution of low-level military personnel for the abuses is not enough. Harvard law professor Christine Desan said Congress would have to determine if the abuses rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors which would be punishable by impeachment.

The prisoner abuse, made public in photos and video, is being investigated by military and Justice Department officials. And Congress is looking into administration memos that could have laid the legal groundwork justifying the abuse.

Bush has said he directed U.S. officials to conform to the law and international treaties.

The letter was signed by a host of legal notables, including former O.J. Simpson defender Alan Dershowitz and the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, a former Massachusetts Congressmanmember who teaches at Georgetown University Law Center.