July 29, 2009: Justice Department releases report & torture memos  

After a five year investigation, the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility released its report, Investigation into the Office of Legal Counsel’s Memoranda Concerning Issues Relating to the CIA’s Use of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” on Suspected Terrorists, accompanied by internal memos on July 29, 2009. The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) found the lawyers, John Yoo and Jay Bybee guilty of  professional misconduct when they issued the infamous “torture memoranda” that very narrowly defined torture, to justify the use of cruel, painful and inhumane interrogation techniques. They argued that the legal definition of torture requires the infliction of severe pain and suffering by a government official who deliberately and consciously intends to torture. They argued that unless a prosecutor can show an evil motive for torturing a detainee, there is no torture even if the interrogation methods used cause great pain and suffering.

“Based on the results of our investigation, we concluded that former Deputy AAG [Assistant Attorney General] John Yoo committed intentional professional misconduct when he violated his duty to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective and candid legal advice.”

“We concluded that former AAG Jay Bybee committed professional misconduct when he acted in reckless disregard of his duty to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective, and candid legal advice.”

Although OPR determined that only John Yoo and Jay Bybee were guilty of professional misconduct, the report describes in great detail how these attorneys and those that followed them in the Office of Legal Counsel rendered twisted interpretations of laws and rationalizations that defied reason, to accommodate the demands of the White House. A draft version of the report [that was leaked earlier the same year] recommended disciplinary referrals to state bar associations for two of the former department lawyers, John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee, but their supporters who claimed the men acted in good faith, convinced President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder that it would be politically imprudent to follow the recommendations or to prosecute anyone who had been involved in the CIA torture program.