Human Rights Group Renews Appeal for Torture Memo Report
By Ryan J. Reilly | February 16, 2010 6:53 pm

Tuesday marked one year since Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sent a letter to the Justice Department asking about the status of DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility’s investigation into the conduct of Justice Department lawyers who authorized the so-called “torture memos,” writes Human Rights First, which describes itself as a nonpartisan international human rights organization.

The report has not been officially released, but there have been news stories about its purported contents that have not pleased a number of organizations. They have expressed disappointment over the reported outcome of the OPR report, which, according to Newsweek, says the lawyers did not violate their professional obligations as lawyers. The DOJ reviewer of the report, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded an earlier draft of the report to say they showed “poor judgment,” sources told Newsweek.

Most recently, a Justice Department spokeswoman told Main Justice that the report would be released “soon,” but declined to offer a time frame or comment on the Newsweek report.

“[A] year to the day after Senators Durbin and Whitehouse sent their [letter], we still have no idea when the OPR report will be released, or what is now holding it up,” writes Daphne Eviatar, of Human Rights First.

“The longer the administration hems and haws and tinkers with the ethics report before releasing it, the more the stain of the past administration’s transgressions becomes its own. It’s high time for the Justice Department to come clean,” Eviatar writes.

On Jan. 22, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Justice Department, seeking a copy of the report which looks into the work of three DOJ attorneys — Steven Bradbury, John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

Last June, Attorney General Eric Holder said the OPR report would be available within a matter of weeks, and in November he said it would be available by the end of the month. When the report still had not been released in December, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act Request.

“It’s now been another six weeks about since we filed the request, and we’ve seen no progress from the Justice Department on the release of that report, so we’re filing suit,” Alex Abdo of the ACLU told Main Justice in January.

Meanwhile, one of the lawyers — John Yoo — is leading a seminar on how to best overhaul the California state constitution, reports The New York Times.

“Yoo built a seminar that encourages students to think about how a constitutional convention could play out and to research and write about the issues that might be at the heart of the debate,” reports The Times.

According to the Times:

When Mr. Yoo first heard last fall about the idea for a state conclave, he said, he immediately saw it as a teachable moment. The idea that hundreds of citizens chosen like a jury might rewrite the state’s Constitution inspired Mr. Yoo to get involved.

“We’ve got to help them,” he said in an interview this month, a conversation in which he declined to discuss his record in Washington. “We really ought not have an uneducated jury making these decisions.”

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