Sunday, February 21, 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.