DOJ bails out torture memo authors Yoo, Bybee

Justice official overruled recommendation that Bush lawyers face disciplinary action

Topics: Torture, Department of Justice, War Room,

DOJ bails out torture memo authors Yoo, BybeeFormer Justice Department lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

After a very long wait, a report from the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility about the conduct of torture memo authors Jay Bybee and John Yoo was released Friday. It was already all but certain that the men would not face criminal charges for their actions during the Bush administration; now it seems that — despite the report’s recommendation — they’ll also escape any professional sanctions.

In the report, which was actually completed in July of 2009, the OPR concludes that Bybee and Yoo were guilty of professional misconduct, and that they should face disciplinary action by their respective state bars. But in a memo written to Attorney General Eric Holder, Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis says he’s overruling that decision, and “will not authorize OPR to refer its findings to the state bar disciplinary authorities in the jurisdictions where Yoo and Bybee are licensed.”

That doesn’t mean Margolis is excusing what Bybee and Yoo did; he repeatedly criticizes their memos. But, he says, they didn’t violate any specific professional standards and are thus not guilty of professional misconduct.

In explaining his decision, Margolis writes, “This decision should not be viewed as an endorsement of the legal work that underlies [the torture memos]. However, OPR’s own analytical framework defines ‘professional misconduct’ such that a finding of misconduct depends on application of a known, unambiguous obligation or standard to the attorney’s conduct …. [A]s all that glitters is not gold, all flaws do not constitute professional misconduct.”

The final report and Margolis’ memo are both available for download in PDF form on the House Judiciary Committee’s Web site, along with drafts of the OPR reports and responses from Bybee and Yoo to those drafts.

Update: A little background on Margolis: He’s a career attorney — that is, not a political appointee — who’s been at the DOJ for decades and seems to be pretty universally respected. From a Legal Times profile of him:



Margolis [is] one of the Justice Department’s most respected officials, a lawyer with a sterling reputation earned over 42 years of service at the department. “Taking him on is a losing battle,” says the source. “The guy is Yoda. Nobody fucks with the guy.”

In many ways, comparing the 66-year-old Margolis to the quirky and ancient Jedi Master is apt. Margolis is widely described as the “institutional knowledge” of the Justice Department. A notorious straight shooter known more for his love of country music and outlaw garb than his politics, he’s managed to navigate the shifting sands of Washington to retain a powerful voice under Attorney Generals Janet Reno, John Ashcroft, and now Alberto Gonzales. Though Margolis is technically outranked by more than a dozen political appointees at DOJ headquarters and all 94 U.S. attorneys scattered throughout the country, his influence on the department extends far beyond his title, say both current and former Justice officials.

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>