Justice Department Declines Punishment for Bush Officials for “Poor Judgment”

The Obama Administration continued the tradition of the “Friday night dump” by just releasing the Justice Department report on former Justice officials John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury. The report is linked below. The Justice Department confirmed that the investigation originally found professional misconduct by Yoo and Bybee, but an unnamed high-ranking official at the Office of Professional Responsibility overruled the finding to avoid any professional action against them. I discussed the story on this segment of Countdown.

Now the report merely states that the men “exercised poor judgment.” That is a remarkable downgrade from the Nuremberg prosecutions of lawyers and judges for war crimes to the Obama Administration saying that support of torture is a matter of “poor judgment.” Poor judgment is when you invite the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and Susan Brady to a small dinner party. Arguing for torture and misrepresenting settled law to facilitate a torture program is usually viewed as something of a slightly higher order than “poor judgment” or “bad form.”

That is why the movie was not called “Poor Judgment at Nuremberg.”

Now we are left with a former Vice President who proclaims proudly his support for torture and lawyers who will face no repercussions for their role — and of course an Administration that is refusing to even investigate war crimes. In the meantime, Bybee will continue to rule on cases as an appellate judge under a lifetime appointment – due to the failure of the Democrats to block the nomination.

How did we come to this ignoble moment?

Here is the report: OPR Report

71 thoughts on “Justice Department Declines Punishment for Bush Officials for “Poor Judgment”

  1. Thank you for that article link Nal. Here a 3 more excerpts from the article at ‘Balkinization’ that people interested in this legal issue should read.


    “The OPR argued that Yoo and Bybee had “a duty to exercise independent legal judgment and to render thorough, objective, and candid legal advice.” This standard, Margolis explained, is much too high a requirement and not one that Yoo and Bybee were previously warned was the standard to which they would be held.”

    “That standard could not be met for Jay Bybee, because Bybee was, to put it bluntly, an empty suit who relied on the advice of others and didn’t analyze the memos all that closely. He just signed the papers.”

    “As for John Yoo, Margolis explains (although he puts it far more diplomatically) that Yoo was an ideologue who entered government service with a warped vision of the world in which he sincerely believed. Yoo had crazy ideas even before he entered government; which strongly suggests that he probably shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.”

    End Quote

  2. Report: Bush Lawyer Said President Could Order Civilians to Be ‘Massacred’
    Michael Isikoff (Newsweek, 2/19/2010)

    The chief author of the Bush administration’s “torture memo” told Justice Department investigators that the president’s war-making authority was so broad that he had the constitutional power to order a village to be “massacred,” according to a report released Friday night by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

    The views of former Justice lawyer John Yoo were deemed to be so extreme and out of step with legal precedents that they prompted the Justice Department’s internal watchdog office to conclude last year that he committed “intentional professional misconduct” when he advised the CIA it could proceed with waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques against Al Qaeda suspects.

    The report by OPR concludes that Yoo, now a Berkeley law professor, and his boss at the time, Jay Bybee, now a federal judge, should be referred to their state bar associations for possible disciplinary proceedings. But, as first reported by NEWSWEEK, another senior department lawyer, David Margolis, reviewed the report and last month overruled its findings on the grounds that there was no clear and “unambiguous” standard by which OPR was judging the lawyers. Instead, Margolis, who was the final decision-maker in the inquiry, found that they were guilty of only “poor judgment.”

    The report, more than four years in the making, is filled with new details into how a small group of lawyers at the Justice Department, the CIA, and the White House crafted the legal arguments that gave the green light to some of the most controversial tactics in the Bush administration’s war on terror. They also describe how Bush administration officials were so worried about the prospect that CIA officers might be criminally prosecuted for torture that one senior official—Attorney General John Ashcroft—even suggested that President Bush issue “advance pardons” for those engaging in waterboarding, a proposal that he was quickly told was not possible.


  3. Newly released CIA documents confirm Pelosi knew about enhanced interrogations.

    Today Speaker Pelosi stood by her lie. She said she was never told that waterboarding was being used on terrorist detainees even though newly released documents prove again that she knew about the agency’s use of harsh interrogation practices on captured terrorists.

    Last May, Pelosi accused the CIA of lying to her and other lawmakers about enhanced interrogation techniques used by the agency on terrorism suspects known as high-value detainees. Waterboarding, a simulated form of drowning, is one of the tactics interrogators used to coax information out of the suspects. Its use drew severe criticism because the United States has abstained from it in past conflicts.

    Last year, Pelosi said she was only briefed once on the advanced interrogation methods, in September 2002. At the time, Pelosi was the House Minority Whip and top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She said in May 2009 that CIA briefers told her that “the use of enhanced interrogation techniques were legal,” and added that waterboarding “was not being employed.”

    CIA records show that during the September 2002 briefing, Pelosi and others were given “a description of the particular enhanced interrogation techniques that had been employed” on Zubaydah.

  4. …yet another paste up that was not written by the poster but copied without attribution from the net…

    …the definition of plagiarism is the use of the writings of another without attribution as one’s own…

  5. Why do you act so surprised? You obviously know my work. Although correct I won’t be fired like the other two writers last week. I get to keep my job.

  6. Here’s what can be determined as fact from CIA documents

    Speaker Pelosi was briefed about “ongoing” interrogations of Abu Zubaydah on April 24, 2002.

    Last year, in 2009, Pelosi said she was only briefed once on the advanced interrogation methods, in September 2002.

    During the September 2002 briefing, Pelosi and others were given “a description of the particular enhanced interrogation techniques that had been employed” on Zubaydah.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is specifically referenced in a briefing that took place on April 24, 2002, regarding the “ongoing interrogations of Abu Zubaydah.”

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