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Senate Democrat to block confirmation of of CIA general counsel nominee

[JURIST] Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) [official website] Wednesday announced he would indefinitely block the confirmation process of CIA general counsel nominee John Rizzo [official profile], saying he had reservations due to Rizzo's failure to object to the controversial 2002 "Bybee Memo" [PDF text; PBS backgrounder] and the continued lack of clear legal guidelines for the CIA's detention and interrogation programs. Rizzo, who has been acting CIA general counsel since August 2004, said he did not have any "specific objections" to the memo during a June hearing [committee materials; JURIST report] before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website]. President Bush nominated [announcement; White House materials] Rizzo to oversee the CIA's Office of General Counsel [official website] in March 2006. If confirmed, Rizzo will be the first CIA general counsel ever to come up through the ranks.

The Bybee memo, which defined torture as physical pain equivalent in "intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death," has been heavily criticized. In 2005, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed the confirmation of then-Attorney General nominee and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales [JURIST news archive] because of the controversial memo, which was disavowed [JURIST report] by the White House in 2004. AP has more.

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