Saturday, February 20, 2010

Major setback for US public diplomacy

Mr. Obama's Justice Department has decided that John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the two DoJ lawyers whose memos provided the legal cover for the Bush-Cheney "enhanced interrogation" (torture, waterboarding) regime, will not be held legally responsible for those actions.  Rather, Deputy Attorney General David Margolis concludes that they "exercised poor judgment by overstating the certainty of their conclusions and underexposing countervailing arguments.”   And he at least has the sense (bless his heart) to point out that
 John Yoo’s loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligation to his client and led him to author opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, view of executive power while speaking for an institutional client. 
Margolis reached his conclusion despite the findings in the (now, finally, released) report of the DoJ's Office of Professional Responsibility, which, it turns out, "slammed Yoo for intentionally violating his “duty to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective and candid legal advice” and also concluded that Bybee “recklessly disregarded” his duties as a Justice Department lawyer.

No punishment.  No law licenses revoked. However, as the McClatchy report notes,
The report doesn’t necessarily absolve the lawyers of all legal blame. Jose Padilla, the former enemy combatant later convicted of supporting terrorists, is suing Yoo, contending that his memos led to his abuse."

In addition, a prosecutor's examination of allegations of torture continues without word of whether he'll order a criminal investigation. Holder appointed special prosecutor John Durham to determine whether CIA officials or contractors should be criminally investigated for the alleged torture.

And as the WaPo notes,
"The Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees immediately scheduled hearings on the investigative report.  They vowed to demand answers from Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, and Bybee, a federal appeals court judge based in Nevada.
[That's right, children, Bybee's a Federal judge!.  Perhaps you too can subvert the rule of law and human rights, yet go on to a distinguished and lucrative legal career.]

More from WaPo:
The left-leaning Center for Constitutional Rights issued a statement saying the Bush lawyers "have caused incalculable damage to our country and to thousands of victims as a result of the twisted legal advice they provided while at the Office of Legal Counsel." The American Civil Liberties Union called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to expand a criminal probe of CIA interrogations.
Nonetheless, sales of Yoo's new book (I refuse to include a link to that; I suggest you read Jane Mayer's The Dark Side instead) are likely to spike, their speaking fees will go way up, and the crowd at Commentary and the Weekly Standard will lionize them as heroes who were unfairly demonized simply for being patriotic Americans who were only doing their jobs.

  (Why does the phrase "Ich bin eine Deutsche soldat" keep looping in my brain?)

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