Leahy calls for release of DOJ e-mails from 'torture memo' lawyers

[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile] said at a hearing Friday that he was prepared to subpoena [Harper's report] the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] if it did not turn over missing e-mail records of former Bush administration lawyers John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive] and Patrick Philbin [firm profile] dealing with the so-called "torture memos" [JURIST news archive] justifying the use of harsh interrogation methods on terror suspects. Leahy urged [press release] that a "true accounting and a comprehensive review" be conducted to determine "how the United States government came to authorize torture." He said that a recently concluded DOJ investigation was limited to whether the lawyers violated "legal profession rules," and he was interested in the role that senior Bush administration officials had played in writing legal justifications for interrogation methods that critics have called torture. He observed:

The role of the White House in the politicization of the OLC and in ensuring that these opinions delivered the legal immunity they were looking for has yet to be fully explored. My sense is that such a review would reveal the same untoward and corrupting influence we found when we investigated the purging of United States Attorneys for political purposes.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official profile], the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, countered [press release] that it was important to put the memos in context. He said they were written in 2002 when the lawyers were acting under tremendous pressure to prevent a future terrorist attack on the United States.

Last week, the DOJ overruled [JURIST report] the findings of an internal ethics investigation by the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website], and said that Yoo and Jay Bybee [official profile; JURIST news archive], another former Bush administration lawyer, were not guilty of professional misconduct. Leahy previously called for a "truth commission" [JURIST report] to investigate Bush administration officials for authorizing the interrogation techniques. The Obama administration has said that it opposes [JURIST report] the formation of an independent investigatory commission.


 

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