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 disucssed this and other related stories on this segment of MSNBC 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.
In the meantime, the Senate Judiciary hearing will reportedly hold an equally offensive hearing that will explore in part whether the torture program was effective in getting information. The clear import is that it is somehow relevant or mitigating if our torturing of individuals yielded information.
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40 thoughts on “Bush Officials Reportedly Working To Water Down Internal Justice Department Report on Torture”
“We have law schools filled with young people who hope to make a contribution and if they cannot depend on the rule of law, equal protection under law then what’s the point of their devotion to the law? … Maybe it’s the plane or being able to call anyone in the world and have them respond. Bush grew up with that kind of privilege, Obama did not. Both seem corrupted to me and yet I still have hope for Obama because he is raising young children and there is something about teaching them by example that ought to guide his decisions”
Yours is an eloquent comment and touches an aspect of the Obama good/bad debate that is not generally a matter for discussion. How deeply many of us in this country need Obama to be a moral President and lead a moral Administration. After what we have become nationally Obama lifted the collective spirit. I fought against it but even I couldn’t manage a sneer when he talked about hope and a new beginning. It sounded real.
I started believing that we could, through sheer force of will craft a new and better future that brought forward the best we had been and realized the best we could yet be. It was the possibility of Camelot fulfilled that captured many of us on some deeply personal level. For a whole different younger segment of the electorate it was the possibility of remaking the country into a place they had never glimpsed but knew was possible.
For these reasons we need the law and justice to be restored. It is the least a citizen can expect or a valid government must provide. Many of us believe that our country now meets the accepted definition for a fascist state but that there is a possibility it can be restored to a Democratic Republic. Fascist-lite, for now, but like you I am deeply concerned about what the future holds if we no longer have the rule of law. We are looking for a revolution without the need for cities to burn. That’s what our political system was set up to do, we played by the rules and endured at least one stolen election and now we want our country back. What about that do the politicians not get?
Perhaps our love for the law as a vehicle for that revolution is misplaced but in a society built entirely around the secular principles embodied by our founding documents and laws what are we to make of a future without them? I would also like to have that answer.
The sense of entitlement observation is sound. Obama’s lack thereof was what pushed me over to the Obama camp. Having watched his mother bicker with a recalcitrant insurance company while having a terminal illness leaves its mark. That and his children (as you also found persuasive) put me in his camp. I believed he would do right by the campaign promises he made on health care at least. I believe that’s what’s behind his embracing an (IMO) opportunistic bottom feeder like Specter and even Lieberman. He wants a health care bill.
I worry about this: I worry about our morality and our civility because it isn’t only my kid who is in the midst of law school and who plans to work in government. We have law schools filled with young people who hope to make a contribution and if they cannot depend on the rule of law, equal protection under law then what’s the point of their devotion to the law?
The example being set by Bushco and now being excused by the Obama administration saddens me nearly to the point of cynicism.
Power never divests itself, you wrote and sadly that appears to be true. Is it narcissism or entitlement or perhaps something a bit more pathological that leads one to seek the presidency? Clearly one cannot win an election without charm, charisma and a very thick skin. Does something happen once one takes up residence in the White House? Maybe having servants pick up one’s dirty clothing and never cleaning gutters or carrying keys or a wallet does something to change one. Maybe it’s the plane or being able to call anyone in the world and have them respond. Bush grew up with that kind of privilege, Obama did not. Both seem corrupted to me and yet I still have hope for Obama because he is raising young children and there is something about teaching them by example that ought to guide his decisions.
I have a friend who loves to say that it doesn’t matter who holds office… that they are all crooks and I argued that she was wrong, that it did matter and that we would be seeing that this administration was going to be different, that we’d be uplifted by its integrity and clarity of purpose.
I like to think that my kid’s legal thinking is being shaped by some of the sharpest minds in the country and that those profs communicate the necessity for them to find the will to consult their personal as well as professional ethics with every decision that they eventually make when in the service of the law.
My formula for the predictability of an appropriate response to a criminal act (committed by a politician) as being the inverse of the amount of time spent dithering over the definition of ‘is’. I see absolutely nothing coming out of the current ‘debate’ regarding the crimes of the last 6 years. Nada. Zip. I’d like to be proved wrong but it’s one of those things I won’t hold my breath until.
It’s the same with the Administration arguments in support of the the previous Administration’s power grab under the theory of the “Unitary Executive’. I have not been surprised one iota. Power never divests itself. Never. People kill and die to accrue power and those in power send others to kill and to die to accrue more of it in their name. Power is never given, given to or given up- it’s taken, wrested, ripped from others, protected and guarded as the most precious of things. Power is the ability to control the future. It’s as close to immortality as one gets individually or collectively. The Unitary Executive is here to stay IMO.
Wow! I’m bringing myself down; I’m not sure if it’s my innate cynicism or that it’s been raining here for a week and I’m just withering without any sunlight ;-(
Very good post Lottakatz. It’s still being engineered and that’s scary. Our govt. both was and is effective with its propaganda. I just linked to a story about murder of our prisoners. It seems like no matter what information comes out, it’s not enough to take action on. Why is that. It can’t be because the actions aren’t worth of being acted on, that’s for sure.
1, May 5, 2009 at 9:19 pm
I’m wondering — where has our morality gone?
It’s been buried by talk of law, treaty, precedent, ticking time bombs and effectiveness. It’s why the CIA destroyed tapes, the Red Cross wasn’t allowed visit our gulag and no photographs of our dead troops or dead Iraqi civilians were allowed and those that were taken surreptitiously couldn’t get published. It was hidden in a debate framed as political and driven by relentless fear mongering, secrecy and lies.
The issue(s) has been sanitized by 6 years of distraction from the central issue of morality and the nature of a country’s soul and masked with a debate over what should be peripheral matters. That there has been no real debate over the morality of torture and a false war and the complete destruction of the Bill of Rights is not an accident. It’s what avoids the need to stare into a mirror and see an accurate reflection that makes one ask ‘is this who I want to be?’ and goes on to this day.
I see the virtue of arguing the issue from a legal point of view as a way to drag the country into a moral response and respect the people that do so but we as a country made a mistake by not bringing the argument down to its fundamentals immediately and keeping it there as the first thing out of the mouth of anyone taking a public position on the matter. It’s never been about law because the law isn’t justice or morality, it’s a framework for the equitable execution of public morality. When that point got lost, actually suppressed, the justice in these matters was doomed. IMO.
I never argued the war, the Homeland Security statutes or torture from any of these 2nd, 3rd or 4th tier positions and would refuse to let a verbal opponent do so; I always argued and answered ‘because it’s un-American’, ‘because it’s immoral’, ‘because it’s about becoming the monsters you oppose,’ ‘you’re a Christian, are you willing to damn your soul over a political expedient?’. I would throw the Christian question out just to watch the rabid Christian’s I argued with go crazy trying to justify their politics with their religion- I’m not a Christian so I didn’t have a dog in that fight, it was a personal indulgence 😉
I fear our morality has died of engineered neglect.
There are lawyers in China trying to bring the rule of law to their country. Those working in this cause are turning up dead. The law partner of one of the recently deceased is going to keep going. He fully expects to be killed himself. He said China’s rule of law is a 100 story building. There are only 30 or 40 stories built now and some of those keep getting torn down. He said, after he dies there will be other people to build the other stories because the rule of law must replace the rule of men. I don’t mean that people who have tried really hard to bring about justice in the US need to keep doing that. Everyone has a point where they know they have done their part and it’s time for others to take over. But I hope you keep adding your strong voice to condemn our rule of men and to demand our own rule of law.
“I met a woman the other day who said, “I don’t care how much they pour some water in some terrorist’s mouth; if we can protect one American by getting information, then any type of torture or death is worth it.”
I would ask her how many American boys and girls is she willing to lose to protect Iraq. I suspect her protection theory only goes so far. I would also like to know how many American POW’s she is willing to sacrifice to the exact same type of torture to wallow in her fear or sadism.
C.L., you’re right, but it’s even worse than that. What she means is that she views one American life as more valuable than that of someone not of this country. It is all about runaway, irrational fear that has been perpetuated by terrified leaders.
I met a woman the other day who said, “I don’t care how much they pour some water in some terrorist’s mouth; if we can protect one American by getting information, then any type of torture or death is worth it.” It shocked me that she holds one potential loss of life as more important to protect against than not only another’s severe pain and psychological death, but the fear generated in this country and others that the United States might have no discretion in harming individuals, including US citizens.
Gee,I thought I was cutting The Prof some slack for not posting often. I’m pretty sure that I get how hard he works, what some of his many activities are and where his off-campus commitments may take him.
Dig: GW Law School Mom means that one of my offspring attends the Law School where Prof Turley teaches and while I was a fan before she was in his Torts class I became a much bigger admirer of his work both inside and outside the classroom.
One of the highlights of me recent past was getting to meet him a few months ago. It was like meeting Elvis or maybe Jerry Garcia and along with Keith Olbermann and Dr House (the TV character not the actor who plays him) is currently one of three men I’d be most tempted to leave my husband for. I like the braniacs. Always did. Especially the ones who tell a good story and have a sense of humor.
All that said I do look forward to a future appearance in this or some other post area.
Sad I voted for Obama has established three facts through his comment: (a) He doesn’t understand the third world; (b) He hasn’t a clue about race relations; and (c) He is completely ignorant about bankruptcy law. Of course, he also didn’t vote for Obama.
“I have seen a few government cover-ups, up close. If the Obama Administration allows this injustice, I am done caring anymore about trying to fight the government. If you do, “win,” the result is only temporary—at best—and the years-long process destroys just about everything for which you hold sacrosanct; honor, ethics, dignity, trust…”
“Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it. ”
–John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
Remember FFLeo, Cicero said “Dum spiro, spero,” and I say cheer up!
I have seen a few government cover-ups, up close. If the Obama Administration allows this injustice, I am done caring anymore about trying to fight the government. If you do, “win,” the result is only temporary—at best—and the years-long process destroys just about everything for which you hold sacrosanct; honor, ethics, dignity, trust…
Ergo, lawyers will always be assured a job and law professors/scholars such as Prof. Turley will always have good Constitutional Law lecture topics and material to write several good law textbooks.
It all seems like one big, choreographed game or play for everyone but the common, downtrodden, citizen pawns.
When the cats away …. He’ll mosey on up with some smiling goat photo or some Bogie reference eventually. As the barkeeper at our cyber bar, he need only break up the fights, say howdy to the patrons, and keep up the flow on those topics with a good head on them. Like most bartenders he mostly listens and doesn’t say much, but when he does its worth paying attention to. Set ’em up JT!
You’d be surprised. The Prof is a busy guy, but he does stop by fairly often and as time permits. I was rather flattered when he took time from his schedule to wish me a happy birthday. Most of us know JT lurks a lot and speaks when he can (or occasionally when he has to). You might want to cut him some slack if he can’t be here for every thread. He’s got court, classes, assort school activities, family with childrens (always more work than it looks), family activities, TV/Radio appearances, and blogging on his plate that I know of and probably a lot more. I’m thinking the man hasn’t slept since 1066. I kid! It’s a law joke. He hasn’t slept since 1986. But keep posting. You’ll run into him eventually.
The trolls are going nuts over any thread dealing with the torture program. Dear Mr. and Ms. Troll, the only issue that is viable here is whether the Bush Administration authorized and ordered Toture. Since they admit to waterboarding and the memos that were released authorized many other torture methods (especially when they were combined), the question of whether they authorized torture is already answered. As has been already stated, it is sad that Spain has to do our work for us.
Prof Turley does not appear here as a participant, probably for many reasons, but mainly, I think, because he does not have endless hours to read countless posts to his blog.
He is, however, far from silent.
YOu just have to know where to go to hear his views.
Good luck to you.
I’m wondering — where has our morality gone?
Regardless of how our standards for behavior and the morals that guide them are formed and informed by growth, development and experience, are we so jaded as a people, so cynical as a nation that a president overwhelmingly elected on a platform of change and transparency and responsibility can overlook the ideals of the people who brought him into office and who should be running away like rats off a sinking ship?
The Obama administration was supposed to do things differently, and instead it took only 100 days for them to compound the criminal abuses and atmosphere of distrust generated by Bushco.
I still like to think that Obama is too young and I never thought I’d say this — not because I am an old crank, although I am getting older and crankier, but because his inexperience and this was a concern in his campaign against Secretary Clinton, is showing. If hubris was the watchword of the Clinton years, inexperience is guiding us into morally murky waters from which we may not emerge with our national integrity intact.
Prof Turley on Countdown this evening alluded to something I wrote a few days ago….not so much the distaste that we had for the Nuremburg trials but the responsibility we had to conduct them. In so doing, we went after everyone we could find: the lawyers who wrote the Nuremburg Laws for Racial Purity (with the help of centuries of Christian inspired Jew hating and ancient Canon law) but the judges who enforced them and the ordinary German citizens who committed the atrocities.
What this really means is that we can find legal precedent for almost any point of view regardless of how heinous or how morally illuminating it may be. This may be a new chapter in creating the heinous and it is sad that it comes with the vulgarity of moving into the future. I’m not sure that this is a future that I can find inspirational or worthwhile.
Trolls show the fear of their masters. It looks like they think they may have a fight on their hands despite their best efforts. Thank you for sharing the fears of the powerful. It’s one of the few ways to know.
JT is right. It is very bizarre to have so much evidence and no investigation into obvious crimes. They bar has kicked people out for much less, and war crimes ought not to be remedied by the bar. It will be a slap in the face of the rule of law if little comes of lawyers breaking faith with the Constitution. This has resulted in deaths (as lottakatz and others have pointed out). It has resulted in unspeakable crimes dressed in sterile language, describing one monstrosity after another. If the DOJ will not move on this evidence they are engaged, as is their boss, in the perpetuation of the monstronsity. Spain will prosecute if we do not.
Good lord, in 3 months Obama has turned us into a third world upside down country.
Obama will go down in history as the worst President America has ever had!
He is going to throw race relations back 25 years, he is bankrupting us, he is setting us up for a terrorist attack, he seems intent on usurping the US Constitution.
and yet Mr. Turley, our “Constitutional Expert” here is SILENT!
Mr. Turley, what say you about bankruptcy laws and Obama STEALING secured creditors money and in effect handing it to his voting block?
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