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Reports: DOJ Torture Memo Probe Clears Yoo, Bybee; Simply 'Poor Judgement'

by Justin Elliott

A long-awaited internal Justice Department report will essentially clear the lawyers who crafted the legal justification for the Bush Administration's torture policies, reversing the tougher findings of a draft version of the report, according to Newsweek.

Torture-memo authors John Yoo and Jay Bybee who served in the Office of Legal Counsel can be referred to state bar associations for potential discipline for their role in writing memos that concluded torture was justified. The draft version of the Office of Professional Responsibility report recommended that John Yoo and Jay Bybee -- who served in the Office of Legal Counsel and are now a law professor at Berkeley and a federal appeals court judge in Nevada, respectively -- be referred to state bar associations for potential discipline for their role in writing memos that concluded torture was justified.

The Washington Post reports that then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey was displeased with the conclusions of the draft report when it was presented to him "at the end of the Bush years." He sent it back for more work.

Newsweek explains what happened next:

[A] senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors--Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor--violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed "poor judgment," say the sources.

According to Newsweek, the report will also detail the involvement of the White House in the drafting of the torture memos. That includes an incident in which Yoo visited Cheney aide David Addington and then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales after a conflict broke out within the administration over whether to give the CIA a "blanket pledge not to prosecute its officers for torture."

Attorney General suggested last year the OPR report would be released by the end of November, but that's the last we heard about the report until now. Last week, the ACLU sued to force the DOJ to release the report.

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