As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Let's See If The Referrals Disappear

Here's a little nugget buried in an article about developments in the torture cases, most of which I covered yesterday:

At the same time, Bush administration lawyers are facing a deadline to respond to a Justice Department ethics investigation into their support for the rough interrogation tactics.

Investigators are evaluating whether former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury followed professional standards when they drafted memos in 2002 and 2005 that gave a green light to simulated drowning and wall slamming of prisoners.

Sources told The Washington Post earlier this year that an earlier draft of the investigators' report recommended disciplinary referrals to local bar associations for two of the men: Yoo, now a law professor in California, and Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge based in Nevada. The report requires the approval of new Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and findings could be released as early as this summer, according to two sources familiar with the process.

The Associated Press reports that this DoJ probe is nearing conclusion. If the recommendations fall short of the disciplinary referrals reportedly cited in the earlier draft, can we conclude that Eric Holder softened the report? a somewhat related story, I appreciate Chris Dodd's thoughts on torture. Dodd's father prosecuted at Nuremberg, incidentally, so he can fairly accurately assess accountability for war crimes.

...I should also mention that DiFi's attempted whitewash of any investigation is disconcerting. Intelligence Committee hearings would not be public, and who knows what would be released at the end. We need a public airing, at the very least.

...Aha, now we hear that BushCo is working overtime to make those disciplinary referrals disappear.

Former Bush administration officials are lobbying behind the scenes to push Justice Department leaders to water down an ethics report criticizing lawyers who blessed harsh detainee interrogation tactics, according to two sources familiar with the efforts.

In recent days, attorneys for the subjects of the ethics probe have encouraged senior Bush administration appointees to write and phone Justice Department officials, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

These are the burrowed Bush officials at Justice, designated to protect the interests of the previous Administration. Let's see what kind of power they wield.

...And here's the latest, as Devlin Barrett of the AP gets a sneak peek at the report, showing that the professional sanctions may remain intact, but that's as far as it goes:

Bush administration lawyers who approved harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects should not face criminal charges, Justice Department investigators say in a draft report that recommends two of the three attorneys face possible professional sanctions [...]

Officials conducting the internal Justice Department inquiry into the lawyers who wrote those memos have recommended referring two of the three lawyers — John Yoo and Jay Bybee — to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action, according to a person familiar with the inquiry. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to discuss the inquiry.

The person noted that the investigative report was still in draft form and subject to revisions. Attorney General Eric Holder also may make his own determination about what steps to take once the report has been finalized.

This is clearly a trial balloon, designed to gauge reaction throughout the civil liberties community and the broader Democratic constituency. We've seen this movie enough with the Obama Administration to recignize it. They leak out some possible outcome to see how it plays. This would be the desirable response.

Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, called the decision not to seek criminal charges "inconceivable, given all that we know about the twisted logic of these memos."

Warren argued the only reason for such a decision "is to provide political cover for people inside the Obama White House so they don't have to pursue what needs to be done."

Offering disciplinary sanctions at state bar associations isn't nothing, but hardly approaches full accountability. There needs to be a very loud reaction to this. First and foremost, Congress needs to open their own hearings into the conduct of officials like Jay Bybee, who remain in a lifetime appointment on the federal bench.

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