In a commentary for Foreign Policy published Thursday, David Kaye, executive director of the UCLA School of Law International Human Rights Program and an attorney-advisor in the State Department from 1995 to 2005, argued that the United States needs a torture commission to look at the policy during the George W. Bush administration.
“The story of that period is a cautionary one for any administration: Presidents and their most senior officials get advice from a system prone to politicized and occasionally ideologically-driven legal advice,” Kaye wrote. “Lawyers, for their part, must constantly guard against politicization and improper influence from the “client” — the administration.”
Noting that the Office of Professional Responsibility report about former Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee was “softened” to “poor judgment” by a senior Justice Department official, Kaye argued that the focus shouldn’t be on individuals.
“But even if Justice had come down hard on Yoo and Bybee, the focus on them, while appropriate for ethics purposes, encourages the public to see the torture scandal as a failure of particular lawyers,” Kaye wrote. “It was that, but it was also much more. It was the failure of an entire structure of government decision-making. There was a deliberate attempt to thwart the normal process of government legal advice. Quite apart from the substance of the advice, the process itself suggests that government officials conspired to commit torture.”
Read his full piece here.