Legal Ethics

Former Bush Officials Seek Changes in DOJ Report Critical of Bybee and Yoo

As the U.S. Department of Justice gets ready to release a legal ethics report on two government attorneys involved in the drafting of what some term “torture” memos authorizing the use of harsh interrogation methods after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, former Bush administration officials reportedly are lobbying for the DOJ to lighten up.

A 200-page draft report was prepared by the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility before President George W. Bush left office in January. It called for state bar associations to launch legal ethics investigations against Jay Bybee, who is now a federal appeals court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor, reports the Washington Post. Both men worked in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. Their lawyers did not immediately respond to the Post’s requests for comment.

However, an early draft of the report did not call for an ethics investigation of a third OLC lawyer involved in the preparation of the memos, Steven Bradbury, the newspaper article notes.

As acting head of the OLC at the time, Bradbury helped oversee the preparation of the ethics report, writes
National Public Radio.

Before they left office this year, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey and then-Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip wrote a letter supplementing the draft report that has not yet been disclosed. However, it describes the circumstances at the time the memos were written, soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, and criticizes the legal analysis in the draft report, says the Post, citing unidentified sources.

Critics have called for a criminal probe of those responsible for using harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects during the Bush administration, including the waterboarding that the current U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, has described as torture. President Barack Obama has sought to discourage a criminal investigation, although he has not ruled it out.

Democrats in Congress are seeking more documents related to the ethics inquiry, the Post reports in another article today. But the final report may be released by the Office of Professional Responsibility this summer.

Additional coverage:

New York Times: “Charges Seen as Unlikely for Lawyers Over Interrogations “ “Sen. Leahy Asks Judge Bybee to Testify About ‘Torture’ Memos” “US Releases 4 More ‘Torture’ Memos, Promises Defense to CIA Workers” “Details of Harsh Interrogation Tactics Emerge in ‘Torture’ Memos” “Mukasey Delayed Report Criticizing Authors of Torture Memos”

Updated at 5:45 p.m. to include link to New York Times coverage.

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