ACLU Files Suit Seeking OPR Report on Torture Memos
By Ryan J. Reilly | January 22, 2022 4:33 pm

John Yoo, formerly an official in the Bush Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (photo Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed suit against the Justice Department, seeking a copy of the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility report on the authors of the so-called “torture memos.”

The OPR ethics probe is looking into the work of three DOJ attorneys — Steven Bradbury, John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

In 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. No further predictions about the timing of the release have been forthcoming from DOJ.

Because the report had not been released, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act Request for the report in December.

“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.

Abdo said the ACLU hasn’t heard anything from the Justice Department about the status of the release of the report.

“It seems at this point that the most likely explanation is that typical politics are holding up the report, but that’s just speculation,” said Abdo.

From the ACLU press release:

“Under the Bush administration, the Office of Legal Counsel issued a series of memos intended to permit interrogators to use methods that the United States had previously described as war crimes,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “As a result of those memos, hundreds of prisoners were abused and tortured, and some were even killed during the course of interrogations. The public has a legitimate interest in knowing whether the authors of the memos violated ethical rules as well as the criminal laws, and in ensuring that those who wrote the memos, as well as those who authorized torture, are held accountable. The release of the ethics report is long overdue.”

The OPR is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by DOJ attorneys. The long-awaited report relates to an OPR ethics probe that considers the work of three DOJ attorneys — Steven Bradbury, John Yoo and Jay Bybee — who authorized the torture and abusive interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody through legal memoranda the three authored while at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). All served senior positions in the OLC. Yoo is now a professor of law; Bradbury is in private practice; and Bybee is a federal judge.

The Bush torture program has severely damaged America’s standing in the world,” said Alex Abdo, a legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. “We cannot move forward from that lawless era until we investigate and account for violations committed by those responsible for this illegal program. The results of the OPR’s ethics probe are a crucial part of that process. The report must be released now.”

The ACLU requested the ethics report under the FOIA in December 2009. The request was filed with the Justice Department and its Office of Professional Responsibility.

In the years since 9/11, ACLU lawsuits brought to enforce the Freedom of Information Act have played an invaluable role in informing the American people of outrageous conduct by their government in the name of the war on terror,” said Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. “This case is the latest in that series.”


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