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. eniobib,

    Thank you. I would have read it later I am sure. I love this line or lie out of the story:

    “”This decision should not be viewed as an endorsement of the legal work that underlies those memoranda,” Assistant Deputy Attorney General David Margolis wrote in a memo released Friday.”

    WTF is that supposed to mean? We don’t endorse it but we are complicit in it work and understanding. They did not mean to do what they did but they were just misguided and following orders? I suppose everyone at Nuremberg should have gotten a Get out of Hanging Free Card too. I was just following Orders.

    The crap about Bybee that is most disturbing is 1) he ignored the Law in rationalizing torture and 2) he put a part of the Hague Treaty that was never Fu***ng adopted. This has to make his Research and Writing professor so happy. And this MF is an Appeals Judge? I can just imagine his decisions. Ignore the law and establish the facts to fit your rationale. At least Yoo, is known for who he is and he can be dealt with at the appropriate sanction. He should teach Ethics. That would be good for him, he should just teach his experience and then the students would know what not to do. Real Life bad examples.

    I think Bybee should be Impeached even if he resigns. They should strip away any retirement since he was appointed in 2003. Harry, this is your Senate Seat. Do the right thing. I know this is election year for you. But your conscience should matter at some point.

    I think that all four should lose the ability to practice law after dancing with the devil as they have. Ethic’s Cheney has none, has anyone noticed how fat Cheney is getting?

  2. AY:

    I ‘ll entertain your motion. On your “rim job comment” I took that as the appropriate receptacle for this decision although I would have added the flushing part too.

    As for Nancy’s welcome inclusion into our discussion you should know — in the words of Oscar Wilde — that the guiding principle for many of us here is: “Seriousness is the only (and last) refuge of the shallow.” (parenthetical comment mine).

  3. Justice Department Clears Bush Interrogation Lawyers of Misconduct


    Justice Department lawyers showed “poor judgment” but did not commit professional misconduct when they authorized CIA interrogators to use waterboarding and other harsh tactics at the height of the U.S. war on terrorism, an internal review released Friday found.:


  4. Feeling a bit like a parrot, I’ll restate the obvious. We’re in real trouble.

    Someone needs to expose and stop the largely unknown activities that are taking place domestically, which I’m guessing might have their origins in the previous administration’s torture program.

    It would help to explain the decisions to date. Maybe Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury know something that many people don’t yet know.

  5. P&P and Nancy,

    Well thank you. The reference to rim shot/rim job was as follows: What you expected it to mean. If you find my post offensive. Please with all due respect DO NOT READ them. You are welcome to read anyone else’s. I wish you luck in your pursuit of happiness. Mine right now appears to be offending your sense of dignity.

  6. Nancy
    1, February 19, 2010 at 11:24 pm
    “I just read some of the comments here and I wish people would elevate the discussion level-references to “rim jobs’?”

    I’m pretty sure that’s what AY did there.

    “Disgusting. Go away whoever you are and post somewhere else.”

    I wish you would elevate your discourse above the level of the Lou Ferrigno Open House scene from “I Love You Man”.

    “Seriously. I am used to obnoxious ignoramuses on non-legal blogs,”

    I’m pretty sure they need you for a quorum right about now.

    “but didn’t expect it here.”

    I thought the flyers pretty much explained all that.

    “I am a member of a real estate law blog and believe me any kind of language like that would get you kicked off.”

    I guess the movie “Gran Torino” didn’t really do much for you.

    If you want the smart legal blog with the HOA you go two blocks past Wysteria lane and hang a left.

    “The display of ignorance would just result in your being ignored.”

    Hey-that sometimes works here too-maybe you should try it.

  7. How did we come to this ignoble moment?

    The United States of America came to this ignoble moment through systemic political bias and self serving nationalist bigotry.

    Laws, oaths, constitutions are not self enforcing. They are social contracts that require the good faith of the individual members of the society and especially of those office holders who swear to take on those duties for the general good.

    This ignoble moment came because those who think of themselves as good, did not, in sufficient numbers, get out of their comfort zones and uphold the rule of law. American citizens for the most part acquiesced to the victumisation of foreigners who had no representatives in Congress.

    Now, there is no rule of law as opposed to the rule of men in the United States nor in the world as a whole. There is only the rule of arbitrary men. And everything including violence is of logical and moral necessity on the table to establish the rule of law against a system that is inherently biased and bigotted against foreigners.

    This is beyond law now. We human beings face existential moral questions about our most solemn values in a world in which the rule of law manifestly does not exist and in which the people of the United States have a vested and systemic interest in keeping in their favor.

    Every self proclaimed good American that votes for Obama because they want better health care without first seeking from Obama a commitment to uphold the rule of law and the prohibitions against mass murder and torture is in part to blame for where we are now.

    Every moraliser and censor that says that violence is always wrong is also to blame for stifling the honest discourse about consequences that needed to take place.

    Americans as a people are no better or worse than other people but as a privileged and empowered group their collective corruption and bigotry, their bystander calculus that denies the unalienable rights of foreigners constitutes a greater impediment to the real emergence of the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men than anything else.

    With the US President appointing the US ambassador to the United Nations and the United States holding a veto power over all Security Council decisions all lawful avenues to justice are cut off by the same group of self interested bigots that elect US representatives.

    We came to this ignoble moment because the people of the United States who are the atoms of their government and represented by their representatives brought us here.

  8. The Obama Administration and Justice Department have now become one with Bush’s Admin and Justice. History will judge them that way and there is nothing more they can do about it. Rather like John Adams, a great founding father whose reputation has been forever colored by the Alien and Sedition Acts or Jefferson whose many founding accomplishments are always tinged by his f**king Sally Hemings and producing all those bastard slaves.

    Amazing that a man so steeped in the history of this nation would allow his good name to be forever sullied in order to protect people like John Yoo and Dick Cheney.

    The beer-fest mentality continues to produce what we can now call, predictable fruits.

  9. I just read some of the comments here and I wish people would elevate the discussion level-references to “rim jobs’? Disgusting. Go away whoever you are and post somewhere else. Seriously. I am used to obnoxious ignoramuses on non-legal blogs, but didn’t expect it here. I am a member of a real estate law blog and believe me any kind of language like that would get you kicked off. The display of ignorance would just result in your being ignored.

  10. This report is a joke. I still don’t understand why the accused parties were allowed responses before the report even became public. What happened to the rule of law??

  11. I didn’t have the patience to wade through the new report from the OPR and trust Prof. Turley’s synopsis on Keith Olbermann’s show tonight. I did read the original Yoo memo, however, which wouldn’t pass muster from a first year associate at a mediocre law firm.

    Ignoring contrary existing case law? From the get-go the whole Yoo memo read like what I, as a real estate lawyer, call an MAI legal memo. MAI is a certification for appraisers (a “good” appraiser has to be MAI certified to be a good witness), but the joke is that “MAI” really means “Made As Instructed”, implying that the appraiser delivers, not a legitimate objective appraisal based on the “facts” but whatever “fair market value” the client wants.

    The Yoo memo screamed MAI to me. He’s obviously not stupid. Yoo is just another lawyer who is told to generate garbage to “support” a result the client wants in order to avoid tax evasion prosecution or whatever. This behavior will kill our profession.

    The disciplinary rules applicable in most states provide that any lawyer who believes Yoo has committed misconduct has an obligation to report the misconduct to the CA bar. I am a real believer in the legal profession self-policing. The reputation of the legal profession is in the gutter because of people like Yoo and Marguolies. Where are the Archibald Coxes?

    Lay people believe we just let the crooks run amok, and that’s not so and should not be so. Read the comments on the WAPO article about the Margulies memo. It’s pretty sickening to read as a lawyer.

    I am not sure if I am authorized to file a complaint with the CA Bar, not being a CA Bar member, but am so angry about this disgraceful decision that I would be willing to do so.

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