On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the recently-released report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The Office had been tasked with assessing whether lawyers in the Bush Office of Legal Counsel had acted unethically in crafting legal memoranda justifying torture.
Although the OPR report concluded that John Yoo and Jay Bybee had demonstrated “professional misconduct,” their recommendation for sanctions was overruled by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, who acknowledged that it was a close question but concluded that the two had exercised “poor judgment.
As we pointed out, regardless of the final recommendation, the detailed reports absolutely affirm that embattled nominee Dawn Johnsen, who has been waiting for more than a year to be confirmed to head OLC under Attorney General Eric Holder, was correct in her criticisms of the “torture memos” issued by the Bush OLC.
Rather than being pilloried for her legitimate criticisms of the Bush OLC’s failure to respect the rule of law, Johnsen should be celebrated for extraordinarily valuable process she led with 19 former OLC lawyers in fashioning principles to guide OLC’s work going forward.
Those principles, by the way, have garnered support across the political spectrum, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Timothy Elliott Flanigan (nominated by Bush to be Deputy Attorney General), and former OLC head Steven Bradbury.
At the hearings, Senator Leahy noted that Attorney General Holder has been hampered in fully reforming OLC as Johnsen’s confirmation continues to be obstructed by Republicans. She should be confirmed without further delay.