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. What is shameful in this decision shows the complete lack of respect for the rule of law in favor of politics.

    Are we ever going to have a person of integrity in the White House. Obama continues to look like Bush.

  2. “Let’s get down to brass tacks. How much for the ape?” – Hunter S Thompson

    International Criminal Court in the Age of Extraordinary Rendition

    Although the United States is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, it seems to me that there is exposure here for Bush Nazis like Yoo and Bybee should they ever leave the country. In all fairness, for those you temped to see this as partisan language, understand that Bybee and Yoo are now Obama’s Gestapo enablers as well since Obama and Holder have opted to protect them domestically. Since the U.S. started the arrogance of exerting universal jurisdiction with the practice of extraordinary rendition, what is to stop a body with a more legitimate claim to proper jurisdiction as a matter of international treaty from nabbing these criminals (and others) when abroad?

    Not a damn thing is what.

    “Well they don’t have jurisdiction! We aren’t signatories!” Just like the US doesn’t have jurisdiction over people it kidnaps and spirits away to secret prisons where torture has been approved and due process violated. Arrest pending trial is different than simply disappearing people. And make no mistake about it, that is what the US Federal government is up to – that sport so beloved by tyrant Augusto Pinochet.

    It took an international tribunal to try Germany’s war criminals. Why should the US expect a walk on this? Even from our allies? How long until the English roll on us internationally? Our “closest ally” or not, all politics are local and their “local” is Europe. You remember Europe, don’t you Washington? Those people who take genocide and war crimes very seriously? You know, since they were victims of such atrocities and all.

    That history is written by the winner is a misconception. History is written by the survivors. I know this because not all situations have winners. Even the “winners” are not immune to the emerging sciences of forensic history.

    The Obama express complicity in war crimes is no win situation for our country.

    This path leads to allies becoming enemies.

    The United States is part of the international community like it or not. That is, despite the naysaying right wingers, a fact. Like gravity is a fact. Like any community, no individual can withstand the scrutiny and condemnation of the majority or the whole. It is a destructive process.

    The terrorists just won. America has stood up in its community and cut its own throat. Our country, once a beacon of human rights and progressive promoters of liberty, has now become the bad guys.

    All because politicians from the Republican and Democratic party sold our Constitution down the river.

    To pay for their election campaign commercials.

    And fancy clothes.

    And excessive perks.

    All for abandoning their sworn duty to protect the Constitution. All for aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war. All for their treasonous selfish personal greed.

    The road to Hell is not paved with good intentions.

    It’s paved with corporatist graft.

    Let’s examine the company America now joins the fascism club:

    Italy under Mussolini – The poster child of corporatism. We all know who they were allies with during the War. The poster children for monsters, Nazi Germany. Speaking of which . . .

    Nazi Germany under Hitler – Don’t think it was a corporatist state? Do you really think because they called themselves socialists that that is what they really were? Look into the relationship between good family owned companies like Krupps and Porsche and Bayer and the Nazi Regime’s war machine. Cozy as bugs in a rug. No, the Nazis were a lot of things but socialists wasn’t one of them. Nazi Germany was a fascist dictatorship in the technical sense. And their downfall started when their Constitution was subverted by internal enemies as well. They started off as a right-wing fringe group not unwilling to be the first to violence – see the failed Beer Hall Putsch. Now think Teabagger Putsch. And then the Nazis began their subversion of the German legal system in earnest which culminated in the burning of the Reichstag. All under the circumstance of economic disaster, that time in which the fearful may be more easily led to do bad acts in the name of either jingoism or religion but often both.

    My . . . what a lovely pattern that is making. And by lovely I mean disturbing. But wait! There’s more . . .

    There is Spain under Franco. A state that had institutionalized torture as well. A state that used coercion and repression as a standard operating procedure. A fascist dictatorship. Franco was much beloved by Nixon. That alone says volumes. And just like Nazi symbols are now banned in modern Germany, the symbols of this tyrants regime are likewise banned in modern Spain.

    You remember Spain, don’t you Washington? The European state with the cajones to challenge your traitorous war criminals? The state that has survived fascism’s evil grip to again return to democracy? A state that is a signatory to the Rome Statute?


    The road to Hell is paved.

    It’s a highway littered with gas stations and shops selling useless crap, populated with jingoistic propaganda and corporatist interests looking to squeeze every bit of blood out of the citizenry possible.

    It’s a highway funded by corporatists.

    Paved in blood.

    Paid in cash.

    “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “…probably the greatest concentration of talent and genius in this house except for perhaps those times when Thomas Jefferson ate alone.” – John F. Kennedy, describing a dinner for the 1962 Nobel Prize winners.

    It is a maxim in the study of Aikido that the best way to avoid trouble is not to be there when it starts. Jefferson knew that the path to corporatism was the path to despotism. He knew it was the path to trouble.

    History proved him right.

    Coincidentally, one of the keys to comedy is repetition. Unfortunately some comedies are darker than others. This is gallows humor for certain.

    Now what’s that thing history does again, Washington?

  3. I have a take on this, too and I publish about it at my Blog linked above.

    The more people who know about this issue and how politically driven it has become vs. how not doing what is right has taken a backseat, the better that may help us in the future … although I would be hard pressed to see how it could be helpful, except maybe in preventing more enlisted men and women from going to prison for another Abu Ghraib mess all the while hotshot lawyers in government skate freely like Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury. That is not justice.

    I am a retired Marine Corps officer an former enlisted combat Vet and my last 10m years of active duty I was an Interrogator — I know the rules and the law… waterboarding is torture and that is illegal, unlawful and a war crimes… and has been for decades. No amount of politiical back and forth can hide that fact or the shame associated with this act by our country in our name.

    Pro. Turley is correct and I strongly believe that Justice Robert Jackson would be sick to know about this injustice today. His words at Nuremberg should ring clearly for everyone to review, stop and pause and reflect. But apparently those trials no longer apply – that too is pretty sad, too.

    Justice Jackson said, “If we were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.”

    Part of his final concluding remarks from his 20-page summation at the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials (July 26, 1946).

    The full document Can be seen here.

  4. By the Way Professor, Good job last night on the program. I am glad to see that you have not been eviscerated and made into one of them yet.

  5. Tootie,

    This is in response to the Yugo. You say we did not have a right to be present in Bosnia. I might agree with you but for the UN Peace Keeping Authority. This was a full scale sales job. Now, if I failed to mention the oil pipe that cut through the country then I would be remiss. If you are not aware we went over to another area in the former USSR and got involved because another country was hijacking the oil supply making demands that they be compensated for the right of trespass. Heck, it had something to do with oil production so we stepped right up to the plate and said, batter, batter, swing. We at least hit a triple and no one went home…..

  6. Anonymously:

    LOL… Yugo got in the way. It sounds like Big Foot or something.

    Anyway, my point is there was no legal authority for Clinton to send in troops killing people who were not a threat to the USA.

    I’m opposed to NATO and don’t wish that it be used as a means to skirt the requisite “declaration of war” demanded by the Constitution before the military can be sent out in the fashion that it was. I don’t recall a congressional declaration being issued.

    And I assumed everyone was e-reading my mind about that.

    My bad.

    If the number you quote includes the starving of Iraqi children through sanctions plus the “war” dead in Bosnia, I’ve not heard that. The best estimate of dead children has been 3 to 500,000, last time I checked.

  7. Thanks, Swarthmore mom. Yes, definitely “significant” — I was wondering about Margolis.

    From the article:

    “Margolis is a 45 year veteran of the DoJ, someone who has been described as the Department’s “Yoda”. But in 2008 Scott Horton wondered if perhaps “Yoda” hadn’t turned to the dark side when defending his colleagues. Seems now we have our answer.”

  8. Amon Re wrote:

    “Every person who believes in the rule of law should be angry with our goverment’s lack of comittment to laws they find irritating”.

    Every person who believes in the rule of law should ask themselves WHY they do in spite of the evidence.

    The UN Charter (which the US constitution makes supreme law under article VI) prohibits wars of aggression, yet Iraq was invaded.

    The US Constitution says the President “shall be” impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. And that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

    Mass murder (aggressive invasion), torture, rendition (kidnapping), assassination (murder) are all illegal and immoral.

    Those who profess belief in the rule of law as opposed to a wish that there was a rule of law aren’t paying attention.

    Continuing to express belief in something that obviously doesn’t exist is denial and impedes consideration of real solutions. It leaves the heavy lifting and moral imperative to corrective action to others.

    The Declaration of Independence says “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security”.

    The people of the world never consented to world government from Washington DC or to the tyranny of the United States whose people grant their representatives political impugnity for crimes against humanity.

    To have a rule of law in practice it is necessary to stop pretending such already exists.

  9. It really scares me that people in positions of power who both approved the use of torture and actually committed it aren’t going to be held criminally accountable. I thought that torturing people was a CRIME in America. I guess not if certain people in high government positions are doing the crime instead of the average person.

    I have to say that this is the first time I’ve been seriously disappointed in the Obama administration since I voted for him.

  10. Here’s a poem I wrote nearly a year ago. I was hoping some people in the Bush administration would be held accountable for their heinous actions…and war crimes. Not to be–not to be.

    Those who voted for Obama hoped–but nothing changed.

    Bye-bye, Bybee

    Bye-bye, Bybee—
    You so-and so—
    It’s time you were benched.
    It’s time to go.

    Return your robe—
    And your gavel, too!
    Judgment day is here
    For you and Yoo.

    You and Yoo,
    The infamous two
    From the OLC—
    The lawyers who

    Used tortured logic
    And legalese
    To circumvent laws…
    Two corroborees

    Who defined techniques
    For interrogation
    (Enhanced AND sadistic)
    With specification.

    You think you did it
    For the good of our nation?
    You think there truly
    Is justification

    For waterboarding…
    Other tortures as well?
    YOU’RE a rotten thing in Denmark
    And you’re starting to smell!

  11. Here’s an excerpt from a poem by Wislawa Szymoborska, a Nobel Laureate and one of my favorite poets:


    Nothing has changed.
    The body is susceptible to pain,
    it must eat and breathe air and sleep,
    it has thin skin and blood right underneath,
    an adequate stock of teeth and nails,
    its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable.
    In tortures all this is taken into account.

    Nothing has changed.
    The body shudders as it shuddered
    before the founding of Rome and after,
    in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
    Tortures are as they were, it’s just the earth that’s grown smaller,
    and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall.

    You can read the rest of the poem at the following link:

  12. Where in the hell is the outrage in this country other than on blogs? We here believe in Prof Turleys’ exceptionalism but surely there are other great lawyers and jurists? Why is there not more outrage at such baltant disregard of the law….

    Every person who believes in the rule of law should be angry with our goverment’s lack of comittment to laws they find irritating

  13. Tootie,

    That is not any different just because he was President Bill Clinton. It is different because it was a civil war between two countries and the Yugo got in the way. I think about 100K died it ended in 1995 with an agreement signed in Dayton, OH.

  14. OF COURSE THE JUSTICE DEPT must do this. otherwise Clinton and Obama will be punished for poor judgment. Clinton and the 500,000 dead Iraqi children under sanctions (which Albright said was “worth it”). Plus the illegal “war” in Bosnia.

    And Obama’s illegal attacks in Pakistan and Yemen.

  15. Does anyone get the ideal that Obama is nothing more than a puppet and Cheney is the new Uncle Tom?

  16. Thanks Swartmore mom,

    I think that this conceptualizes the ideals that I and a lot of others are feeling….

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