May 6, 2009

From the AP:

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.

The recommendations come after an Obama administration decision last month to make public legal memos authorizing the use of harsh interrogation methods but not to prosecute CIA interrogators who followed advice outlined in the memos.

And if that weren't bad enough Jonathan Turley reports:

The Washington Post reports that Bush officials are working the halls and telephones of the Justice Department with the formal end of the internal investigation into former Justice officials involved in the Bush torture program, including Ninth Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee, Berkeley professor John C. Yoo and Steven G. Bradbury. They are reportedly working over former colleagues to soften the language and recommendations of the department. I will be discussing this and other related stories on tonight’s Countdown.

An earlier draft report recommended disciplinary action by state bar associations against two former Justice officials — pretty light punishment for participation in a war crime. However, even that recommendation was too much for former Attorney General Michael Mukasey who delayed the report and ordered further examination. Mukasey and then-Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip wrote a 14-page letter rebutting the report of its own investigators before leaving office.

The investigation could, however, disclose new information given the five years of work by the department into the matter. The deadline for the investigation ended on Monday of this week.

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich has informed members of Congress that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden “will have access to whatever information they need to evaluate the final report and make determinations about appropriate next steps.”

The Justice Department continues to insist on total control over the investigation of its own attorneys and department in a clear conflict of interest. Not just political appointees but career attorneys were involved in the program. The department is now reviewing whether the department itself facilitated in the commission of a war crime — a finding that would be an embarrassment to the department as a whole. This is like having a hospital review its own doctors to determine if those doctors and the hospital as a whole committed criminal malpractice.

The fact that there is lobbying going on between current and former Justice Department officials shows the highly inbred aspect of this inquiry. These same former officials would not think of trying to influence a special prosecutor, who is supposed to be appointed in such conflicted circumstances. Not surprisingly, a report from the New York Times indicates that the Justice Department will use this report to conclude that its lawyers should not face criminal charges when facilitating such programs.

In this context, discussion of bar charges appears rather laughable. It is not that such action is not warranted, but rather it is treating participating in a possible war crime as something less than a misdemeanor offense.

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