Former Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel lawyer John Yoo said in a column in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer that he didn’t know why the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility couldn’t find e-mails he exchanged with a colleague during the period in which Yoo was working on memos detailing the legal basis for interrogating terrorism detainees.
Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday that the DOJ is trying to retrieve the Yoo e-mails, which could not be recovered during the OPR investigation of potential misconduct by Yoo in the authorization of harsh interrogation methods for terrorism suspects. Yoo, who served in the OLC from 2001 to 2003, was recently cleared of misconduct stemming from the “torture” memos.
“During my interviews, OPR lawyers showed me several printouts of my e-mails,” Yoo wrote. “If they need more they should look in the files of the other lawyers on the network.”
He added that there couldn’t be any e-mails discussing interrogation methods to his ex-colleague, former OLC lawyer Patrick Philbin, because the Justice Department’s e-mail system is unclassified and could not be used to discuss interrogation techniques, which were “classified at the highest levels of secrecy.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chastised Grindler on Friday for the missing e-mails. He said their disappearance raised “serious concerns” about government transparency.
Grindler said the OPR report on the authorization of the harsh interrogation methods does “not suggest that there was anything nefarious” about deletion of e-mails. But the National Archives sent a letter to the DOJ on Wednesday asking it to investigate “possible unauthorized destruction of e-mail and other records” in OLC.
Yoo said in his op-ed column that the OPR’s handling of the investigation is the “gift that keeps on giving,” adding that the OPR investigators are “incompetent.” He said that “Leahy’s outrage displays how little he and OPR understand the basics of intelligence.”