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DOJ Ethics Report Coming Soon?

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May 5, 2009

The Associated Press reports today that an ethics probe into the conduct of senior Bush administration Justice Department attorneys is coming to an end:

The Justice Department is nearing the end of its probe into Bush administration lawyers who wrote secret memos approving harsh interrogation techniques.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of a letter from the Justice Department informing two members of Congress that a key deadline in the inquiry expired Monday.

We hope this means the release of this report is imminent.

Newsweek originally reported on this probe back in February. The internal Justice Department report, drafted by the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), examines the conduct of senior lawyers who authored the legal memos that authorize the torture and other harsh interrogation tactics used on detainees in U.S. custody. The OPR is investigating whether this legal advice “was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys.” According to insiders, a draft of the report sharply criticizes the legal work of former top Office of Legal Counsel officials under Bush — Jay Bybee, Steven Bradbury and John Yoo. In light of these reports, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) called on the DOJ to release the findings.

According to NPR, the aforementioned letter was sent to Sens. Durbin and Whitehouse from Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich, informing them that Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury had until yesterday to comment on the draft of the OPR report.

Yoo is now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Bybee is a sitting judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, appointed by former president Bush. If Attorney General Eric Holder accepts the findings, the report could be forwarded to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action.

We hope President Obama will make good on his promise of greater transparency, and release this ethics report soon. But while we wait for the release of this report, you can still take action against torture: sign our petition calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate former Bush administration officials who authorized torture.

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