Six months ago Attorney General Holder announced an unprecedented investigation. For the the first time in American History, a new administration had launched a politically motivated legal investigation against its predecessor, as the Obama administration went after the lawyers who wrote the legal decisions blessing enhanced interrogation techniques such as water-boarding for the Bush Administration.”
This evening the two lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee were cleared of professional misconduct in connection those memorandums authorizing harsh interrogations. Interestingly, the ethics lawyers in the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), concluded that two department lawyers had demonstrated “professional misconduct.” It said the lawyers had ignored legal precedents and provided slipshod legal advice to the White House in possible violation of international and federal laws on torture.
But Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis rejected those findings (his document embedded below), saying that OPR’s definition of “professional misconduct” requires a known, unambiguous standard of conduct and that neither Bybee nor Yoo violated a clear obligation. “I am unpersuaded that OPR has identified such a standard,” Margolis, a career Justice lawyer, wrote in a Jan. 5 memo to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. Margolis’ review blocks OPR from referring its findings of misconduct to state bar counsel. He also said that the review did not take into account the context of what had just happened in America at the time.
But its not over, Senate and House Democratic leaders looking to continue the witch hunt this evening called for hearings to explore the OPR report and its findings. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a hearing next Friday, Feb. 26.
“I am heartened that Mr. Margolis understood that our work in the immediate months after 9/11 was done in good faith, under demanding pressures, to protect our nation from more terrorist attacks,” Mr. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Friday.
A lawyer for Mr. Bybee, whom President George W. Bush appointed to a federal appeals court before his legal memos were disclosed, said he had been vindicated. “No public servant should have to endure the type of relentless, misinformed attacks that have been directed at Judge Bybee,” lawyer Maureen Mahoney said in a statement.
…”For years, those who approved torture and abuse of detainees have hidden behind legal memos issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.). “The materials released today make plain that those memos were legally flawed and fundamentally unsound, and may have been improperly influenced by a desire to tell the Bush White House and the CIA what it wanted to hear.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: “In drafting and signing these unsound legal analyses, OLC attorneys sanctioned torture, contrary to our domestic anti-torture laws, our international treaty obligations and the fundamental values of this country.”
…Legal scholars pointed to various flaws in the memorandums’ analysis, including omission of relevant cases and unorthodox readings of legal text. Under such criticism, the Bush administration disavowed many of the memorandums, and President Barack Obama later instructed officials not to rely on them for guidance.
Margolis’ full report is embedded below