The Justice Department may have declined to take action against two Bush-era officials who provided critical support for torture techniques, but that doesn’t mean Jay Bybee and John Yoo are off the hook.
Obama administration officials won’t pursue disciplinary action against Bybee and Yoo, both of whom worked at Justice during the Bush administration and wrote memos that provided justification for American agents to engage in harsh treatment of detainees captured following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to Justice Department documents released Friday.
The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) within Justice had undertaken a formal investigation of Bybee and Yoo for their work in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Council (OLC), where the pair authored memos that authorized interrogation techniques considered torture. Those techniques included waterboarding, or simulated drowning.
Obama Attorney General Eric Holder clearly labeled waterboarding as torture last year in his Senate confirmation hearing.
A memo to Holder indicates that Bybee and Yoo engaged in professional misconduct due to their torture memos. Bybee demonstrated a “reckless disregard” of his duty for his role in the torture memos, OPR says. Yoo “committed intentional professional misconduct” for his, OPR finds.
Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, however, says he is overruling those misconduct findings, however, and will pursue no disciplinary action against the pair.
That is not the end of it for Bybee and Yoo as far as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is concerned, however.
Leahy says the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to examine the OPR report. Those who will testify will be announced in coming days, according to a Leahy statement.
“The report from the Office of Professional Responsibility is acondemnation of the legal memoranda drafted by key architects of the Bush administration’s legal policy, including Jay Bybee and John Yoo, on the treatment of detainees,” Leahy says. “The deeply flawed legal opinions proffered by these former OLC officials created a ‘golden shield’ that sought to protect from scrutiny and prosecution the Bush administration’s torture of detainees in U.S. custody. In drafting and signing these unsound legal analyses, OLC attorneys sanctioned torture, contrary to our domestic anti-torture laws, our international treaty obligations and the fundamental values of this country.”
Leahy says he specifically seeks further action against Bybee, who after his work at Justice, was nominated by Bush to become a judge in federal court.
“I have said before that if the Judiciary Committee, and the Senate, knew of Judge Bybee’s role in creating these [torture] policies, he would have never been confirmed to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench,” Leahy says. “The right thing to do would be for him to resign from this lifetime appointment.”
Publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.