The Office of Professional Responsibility report on conduct of the authors of the so-called torture memos shows that the Justice Department’s internal ethics office is broken, according to panelists at a Wednesday forum hosted by the Alliance for Justice.
Panelists David Cole, a Georgetown law professor, Michael S. Frisch, ethics counsel to the Georgetown University Law Center, Scott Horton a lawyer and contributor to Harper’s magazine and Bill Yeomans, a fellow in law and government at American University’s Washington College of Law, all criticized the result of the investigation into the authors of the so-called “torture memos” that authorized harsh interrogation methods for use on terrorism suspects.
While OPR found in its investigation that Jay Bybee and John Yoo had been guilty of professional misconduct, that finding was overruled by David Margolis, a career employee serving as Associate Deputy Attorney General, the highest ranking non-political position in the Justice Department.
OPR is simply not independent, said Yeomans, who spent 23 years in the Civil Rights Division before leaving the department in 2005.
He said there is an ongoing battle within the Justice Department between OPR and the department’s Inspector General.
Yeomans added that the report shows how broken the Justice Department’s internal ethics department has become. He said that OPR did not even obtain Yoo’s e-mails, saying that it believed they had been destroyed.
“Most of us have been trained to believe that e-mails never actually disappear, they are always somewhere,” said Yeomans. Without the e-mails, there is a “gaping hole in the investigation,” said Yeomans.
Cole said that the result of the report is that torture has became professionalized and regularized.
“We tortured people, we tortured many people, and we’re arguing about whether two lawyers should get bar discipline?” said Cole. He said discussion about the memos is greatly important, and that’s why the report “was released on a Friday night at 5 p.m.”
Horton said it was important to remember what the memos were really about.
“Is this really about ethics, or is this about crimes? The answer is very clear, it is about crimes,” said Horton. “Self regulation is a fraud,” Horton said of OPR. “This is not just a U.S. crime, it is a universal crime,” said Horton. The Bush White House and the CIA “wanted a get out of jail free card,” he said.
Video of the event is available on the Alliance for Justice Web site.