OPR Report Slams Bush Office of Legal Counsel

In a report released yesterday, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that the pro-torture legal opinions produced by President Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel were the result of faulty reasoning. Although the DOJ’s own ethics lawyers concluded that the legal memos in support of waterboarding and other torture techniques were the result of “professional misconduct,” the final recommendation to the Attorney General downgraded the criticism, attributing the opinions to “flawed legal reasoning.”

People for the American Way President Michael B. Keegan issued the following statement:

“The OPR Report is a damning evaluation of Jay Bybee, John Yoo and the pro-torture opinions that they drafted. For years, we’ve seen the Bush Administration and its supporters point to these documents to defend the brutal, illegal actions that were authorized in interrogating prisoners. Now it’s been made clear once and for all that the legal reasoning behind those techniques was deeply flawed.

“According to the ethics lawyers in the Department of Justice, Jay Bybee and John Yoo ignored precedent and offered faulty legal advice. Their actions constitute a black mark on the reputation of the Office of Legal Counsel and on our country’s standing as a nation of laws.

“It’s ironic indeed that Dawn Johnsen, President Obama’s choice to head the OLC, is being pilloried by Republicans for reaching the same conclusion about the memos as the DOJ’s own ethics lawyers. After the memos became public, she assembled a team of widely respected experts to help create a statement of principles to guide the OLC going forward. Her actions should be commended, not criticized.

“Unlike Yoo and Bybee, Dawn Johnsen has shown integrity and adherence to the rule of law. She has bipartisan support from her home state senators and has won endorsements from officials from every administration since President Reagan. Dawn Johnsen has demonstrated that she understands that national security challenges can be met without subverting the rule of law. She should be confirmed without further delay.

“I applaud Senator Leahy and Congressman Conyers for convening House and Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on this matter.”

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