OPR Report on Torture Memos Still Incomplete
By Joe Palazzolo | October 6, 2009 8:31 pm
John Yoo (Berkeley)

John Yoo (Berkeley)

The release of a long-awaited ethics report on the conduct of former Justice Department lawyers who authorized the use of harsh interrogation appears to be a ways off.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the department is waiting for additional comments from “some of the lawyers who were involved.” The former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers under scrutiny already missed a May deadline for submitting their responses.

Speaking with reporters at Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, Holder said he expected the report to be cleared for release relatively soon. In June, he said the report, now more than four years in the making, would be ready in a “matter of weeks.”

The report explores whether legal advice in the interrogation memos, which have since been rescinded, met professional standards required of Justice Department lawyers. The Office of Professional Responsibility’s initial findings are said to be harshly critical of Jay Bybee, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and John Yoo, a former deputy.

But it’s unlikely that they would face disciplinary action, even if the Office of Professional Responsibility refers its findings to state bar associations.  Bybee is now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and Yoo, a law professor at Berkeley, is likely immune because the conduct in question falls outside of the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, where he is licensed to practice law.

Bybee’s lawyer, Latham & Watkins’ Maureen Mahoney, declined to comment. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Miguel Estrada, who represents Yoo, could not be reached.

The report has been in a state of revision since the final weeks of the Bush administration. Newsweek reported in February that then–Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his deputy, Mark Filip, strongly objected to its conclusions. Filip wanted the ethics office to incorporate responses by the subjects of the probe into the final report, and OPR obliged.

Several Democrats and left-leaning groups have been clamoring for its release. Holder said Tuesday his “hope is that within a relatively short period of time we’re going to be in a position to release that report in as much detail as we can.”

Once the report is complete, it must be combed for sensitive information, Holder said. He gave no indication as to how long the declassification process will take.

This post has been updated.

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