Last week, Newsweek reported that David Margolis, a career official at the Justice Department, softened an imminent Office of Professional Responsibility report about Bush “torture memo” lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee. Instead of sanctioning the two lawyers for their violating their professional obligations in writing legal opinions justifying torture, the report will now say, according to Newsweek, that they showed “poor judgment.” This will not open up Yoo or Bybee to sanctioning by state bar associations for disciplinary action, including possible impeachment for Bybee, now a federal judge. According to the article, Margolis acted “without input” from Attorney General Eric Holder.
I had the opportunity to ask Rep. Jerrold Nadler, of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, about this development. Nadler was in Los Angeles for an interview with Brave New Films’ “Conversations” series. Nadler was clearly unaware of the report, and replied, “It’s very upsetting to hear that. I should hold hearings on that. I’m interested in why a career employee would think his judgment would be better or worse” than the lawyers in the OPR who administered the initial report, he said.
I was surprised that I know more about this issue than a politician. I was really surprised that I knew more about this than a powerful politician. And I was especially shocked to know more about this than the ranking official on the relevant subcommittee in the House. If the Newsweek story is true, the Administration is making no effort to soften the blow in Congress.
Nadler reiterated his call for a special prosecutor in the matter of torture. “We are treaty-bound, and legally bound by federal statute, to investigate the commission of this crime. If Dick Cheney said he personally authorized waterboarding, and Eric Holder says waterboarding is torture, we are obligated to do something about that. So I think there should be a special prosecutor. I’ll try to do what I can to investigate, hold hearings, and open it up somehow.”
Multiple NGOs have called for hearings by Congress into the manipulation of the OPR report, and have said that the House Judiciary Committee does not need permission from the report to initiate impeachment hearings against Jay Bybee. Nadler did not comment on that in his remarks.