DOJ report on torture memo authors recommends disciplinary action

Former Bush administration officials are reportedly pushing back against the probe, but its conclusions might actually shut down talk of prosecution.

Published May 5, 2009 7:20PM (EDT)

The Washington Post is reporting that, with the Department of Justice's probe of torture memo authors Jay Bybee, Steven Bradbury and John Yoo all but complete, former Bush administration officials are "launching a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to urge Justice Department leaders to soften" the final product. "[A]ttorneys for the subjects of the ethics probe have encouraged senior Bush administration appointees to write and phone Justice Department officials," the Post's Carrie Johnson writes.

It's not too surprising that there'd be this kind of pushback, especially as reports like this one, at least when done by the various department inspector generals, typically include feedback from the subjects. (Admittedly, what the Post is describing is somewhat different.)

It seems to me, actually, that Johnson, to use a little industry parlance, buried her lede -- that is, there's another part of the story that's not given the same amount of emphasis but might ultimately prove more important. She says the report "recommends disciplinary action by state bar associations" against Bybee and Yoo, though not, apparently, against Bradbury.

That means the two men could face the suspension of their licenses to practice law, or perhaps even disbarment. But that's probably as far as the punitive action taken against them will go. The Obama administration, which is resistant to the idea of prosecutions anyway, has been waiting on the release of this report before announcing the DOJ's decision about whether to prosecute Bybee, Bradbury and Yoo. This conclusion will probably provide the administration's rationale for the final decision not to pursue criminal penalties.

According to Johnson, the full report could be made public as early as this summer.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Department Of Justice Torture War Room