Newsweek is reporting that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey delayed a critical internal report on the conduct of senior Justice lawyers in the torture scandal, including Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury. The delayed report not only adds another contradiction to Mukasey’s claims before Congress, but should add pressure on the Obama Administration to stop delaying a criminal investigation into the commission of war crimes by the Bush Administration.
During his confirmation, many of us were alarmed by what appears to be clear false testimony by Mukasey, including his statement that he did not know what waterboarding was. Mukasey insisted that he would implement changes at the Justice Department to stop the political manipulation of career professionals. However, once in office, he blocked any investigation of war crimes, blocked any prosecution of Bush officials for contempt of Congress, and shutdown an array of investigations into the misconduct of Justice officials. It is quite of legacy.
Mukasey’s abuses have led many to question why Sens. Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein rescued his confirmation by not demanding that he answer questions about torture and war crimes. Mukasey proceeded to use an array of implausible excuses for not acting on allegations of crimes while secretly working to delay any criticism of those same officials in this report. For a prior column, click here.
The internal report was an effort to avoid a criminal investigation by allowing career lawyers to review the “conduct” as opposed to the crimes of Bush officials. To Mukasey’s surprise, career lawyers found serious misconduct and he prompted moved to waterdown the report and change its conclusions.
Even with changes forced by Mukasey, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), sharply criticizes three former top lawyers at Justice who authored the torture memos and raises the possibility that they could be referred to bar disciplinary boards.
Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury are the focus of those criticisms.
The controversy, however, should serve to remind citizens that the Obama Administration has still not taken any action on widespread allegations of war crimes. There is clearly an effort to outlast any public interest in such an investigation. Delay will also serve to allow some statute of limitations to run — giving the Administration an excuse not to prosecute on some collateral crimes. However, there are no statutes of limitations for war crimes and the failure of the Administration to act is itself a violation of our obligations under these treaties.
For the full story, click here.