AG Holder Must Reject Whitewash of Torture Findings

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  • Dale Eisman

Common Cause Calls on Holder to Stand by His Agency’s Own Internal Watchdog

Common Cause calls on Attorney General Eric Holder to reject the whitewashing of an internal Justice Department ethics review of former Bush Administration lawyers who authored memos that paved the way for torture of terror suspects, and to stand by the report’s original findings and recommendations.

Justice’s internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), late Friday released a long-awaited report that concluded that legal advice provided by John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee, who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel, constituted professional misconduct and warranted possible disbarment. But Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, who was in charge of the final recommendations, softened it and said neither lawyer should face discipline or disbarment.

“This sad chapter in our nation’s history should not end with one man’s interpretation that flies in the face of international standards and our own nation’s prior positions,” Common Cause President Bob Edgar said, referring to Margolis. “This report only drives home what we suspected: The top lawyers advising President Bush on the issue of torture had no regard for the Constitution, and no regard for international law.”

In an especially troubling segment of the report, Yoo told an investigator that he believed that President Bush’s commander-in-chief powers were so sweeping that the President had a wartime right to massacre a village.

“Given that statement alone, it is mindboggling that Mr. Margolis found Mr. Yoo and his boss Mr. Bybee guilty of only ‘poor judgment,'” Edgar said. “Clearly this document is a compromised and politicized finding. We need a legally grounded objective investigation. It certainly appears that Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee should be disbarred.”

Yoo is currently a law professor at the University of California Berkeley and Bybee is a 9th Circuit Appeals Court judge.

Margolis’ findings dishonor the men and women who risked their careers and lives to stand up for the rule of law and against torture, Edgar said. “High ranking members of the U.S. JAG corps and the U.S. armed services knew that torture was wrong and illegal — and risked their careers and personal safety to stop it,” Edgar said referring top JAG corps prosecutors and intelligence officers who worked to stop the use of torture.

Last year, Common Cause presented a letter of commendation to members of JAG Corps and servicemen and women who stood up to torture. They included career intelligence operators Col. Steve Kleinman, Col. Brit Mallow, Deputy Commander Mark Fallon, JAG corps prosecutors Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld and Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora. The letter was signed by President Carter, former secretaries of defense, as well as retired military officers. Click here to read the honorees’ profiles.