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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 30, 2010

TO ERIC HOLDER, SMOKING POT IS A CRIME; APPROVING TORTURE IS JUST 'POOR JUDGMENT'

Jason Leopold, Truthout - A long-awaited Department of Justice watchdog report that probed whether John Yoo and his former boss Jay Bybee violated professional standards when they provided the Bush White House with legal advice on torture has cleared both men of misconduct, according to Newsweek, citing unnamed sources who have seen the document.

An earlier version of the report, prepared by the Office of Professional Responsibility and completed in December 2008, actually concluded that Yoo, a Berkeley law professor, and Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge on the 9th Circuit, violated professional standards when they drafted an August 2002 legal opinion that authorized CIA officers to use brutal methods when interrogating suspected terrorist detainees.

But as I reported last April, those previous conclusions were watered down after OPR received responses on the report's conclusions from Yoo and Bybee, who both worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

Legal sources familiar with the internal debate about the draft report say OPR is in the process of "watering"- down the criticism of legal opinions by [OLC] lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee in 2002 and 2003 and by [OLC acting head Steven Bradbury], who in 2005 reinstated some of the Yoo-Bybee opinions after they had been withdrawn by Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith when he headed the OLC in 2003 and 2004.

David Margolis, the 34-year career prosecutor at the DOJ charged with reviewing the final version of the report, was responsible for "softening" OPR's earlier finding of professional misconduct and instead determined that Yoo and Bybee "showed poor judgment" when they drafted an August 1, 2002 legal opinion authorizing the CIA to employ methods such as waterboarding against detainees during interrogations, according to Newsweek.

That means neither Yoo nor Bybee will be referred to state bar associations where they could have faced disciplinary action since poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct, according to OPR's post-investigation procedures. For Bybee, such a referral could have also led to an impeachment inquiry before Congress.

Yoo and Bybee, however, are still under scrutiny. Legal advocacy groups have filed complaints against them, and others who worked on the Bush administration's so-called "enhanced interrogation" program, with state bar associations in hopes that their law licenses will be revoked.


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