Fallout from the Bush administration's detainee interrogation practices persisted yesterday, with House Democrats requesting documents that reportedly challenged the decision to use methods critics have likened to torture.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) asked officials at the State Department and the National Archives to produce a May 2005 memo that contested the legality of waterboarding and other measures.
The memo's author, former State Department counselor Philip D. Zelikow, wrote on a Foreign Affairs blog last month that he dissented from conclusions by the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel four years ago that the methods were legal. Additionally, he wrote that unnamed White House officials at the time "attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo."
At the same time, Bush administration lawyers are facing a deadline to respond to a Justice Department ethics investigation into their support for the rough interrogation tactics.
Investigators are evaluating whether former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury followed professional standards when they drafted memos in 2002 and 2005 that gave a green light to simulated drowning and wall slamming of prisoners.
Sources told The Washington Post earlier this year that an earlier draft of the investigators' report recommended disciplinary referrals to local bar associations for two of the men: Yoo, now a law professor in California, and Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge based in Nevada. The report requires the approval of new Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and findings could be released as early as this summer, according to two sources familiar with the process.
Meanwhile, a Senate Judiciary panel will hold a hearing May 13 on the origins and legal analysis of the Justice Department's interrogation memos, as well as whether the harsh techniques proved effective in securing useful information that prevented terrorist strikes, a Democratic aide said. Among the witnesses at the hearing will be Zelikow and former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who has been critical of the CIA interrogation program.