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Well, we all know that the Department of Justice has cleared the Bush Administration officials who authorized torture. Bad judgment is the judgment. It was the process that mattered, not the crimes against humanity. And had the Bush Administration decided simply to massacre an entire village, that too, apparently, would have been but a case of bad judgment. Because that, too, was given clearance by one of the same Bush officials. Had it happened, that apparently would have been excused with the same "Oops. Sorry. We'll try to think more clearly, next time."

Everything is excused when we're afraid and there's a sense of urgency. International law, domestic law, and basic humanity can be scared right out of us, and it's all perfectly legal, according to the now curiously named Department of Justice. We already know that it's legally okay for "detainees" to be tortured to death. And Jesselyn Radack has elucidated the surreal double standard that now makes it punishable to respect the law and excusable to violate it.

But there is good news. It comes from Senator Pat Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Commitee:

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to examine the Office of Professional Responsibility Report on the Office of Legal Counsel, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced today.  The report was released to Congress today.

The hearing will be held Friday, February 26, at 10:00 a.m.  Witnesses will be announced in the coming days, and the hearing will be webcast live online.

Needless to say, a one day hearing is not enough. But it could be a start. We need to watch. We need to listen. We need to do everything in our collective power to make sure that this hearing becomes a beginning, not a mere quick blip that is even more quickly forgotten.


The report from the Office of Professional Responsibility is a condemnation of the legal memoranda drafted by key architects of the Bush administration’s legal policy, including Jay Bybee and John Yoo, on the treatment of detainees.  The deeply flawed legal opinions proffered by these former OLC officials created a ‘golden shield’ that sought to protect from scrutiny and prosecution the Bush administration’s torture of detainees in U.S. custody.  In drafting and signing these unsound legal analyses, OLC attorneys sanctioned torture, contrary to our domestic anti-torture laws, our international treaty obligations and the fundamental values of this country.

I have serious concerns about the role each of these government lawyers played in the development of these policies.  I have said before that if the Judiciary Committee, and the Senate, knew of Judge Bybee’s role in creating these policies, he would have never been confirmed to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.  The right thing to do would be for him to resign from this lifetime appointment.

As a United States Senator, as a former prosecutor, and as an American citizen, I am offended by the premeditated approach taken by former high-ranking officials in the Office of Legal Counsel in constructing the legal underpinnings of seriously flawed national security policies.

The Department of Justice has given this a pass. It sounds like Senator Leahy could have more in mind. Like maybe the beginnings of impeachment proceedings against Bybee. Maybe more. If we are to establish a sense of law and of basic human morality, we must demand no less. And much more.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 08:59 AM PST.

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