John Yoo is celebrating the Justice Department’s finding that his Torture Memos did not violate standards of professional conduct, while calling investigators from DOJ’s internal ethics unit “incompetent” and “obviously biased,” and describing their probe as a “farce.”
In a Philadelphia Inquirer column — his first public comments since the release of the Office of Professional Responsibility report — Yoo accuses the OPR investigators of “the politicization of national security.” He describes their probe as a “witch-hunt” against Bush administration lawyers, and asserts that “OPR’s political bias was legion.” As evidence, Yoo cites the fact that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his deputy had argued that there were errors in the report.
OPR had originally found that Yoo had violated standards of professional conduct, but its findings were softened by a DOJ career lawyer, who concluded instead that he had been guilty only of poor judgment.
In his op-ed, Yoo, a Philadelphia area native who teaches at Berkeley law school, also appears, misleadingly, to bring the Obama administration into the controversy. He writes:
OPR lawyers - and the Obama administration - disagreed with the policy choices made by President Bush on the detention and interrogation of terrorists. But instead of arguing against those policies honestly and openly, they decided to fight them under the pretext of a cooked-up ethics investigation.
The OPR investigation began in 2005 when Alberto Gonzales led the Justice Department, and was reportedly largely complete by the time the Obama administration took office.
As for the memos themselves, Yoo writes, with a bit of hyperbole, that they were written “under the most difficult circumstances and pressures of time imaginable.” “We gave the best answers we could, in good faith.”
And he slams the OPR lawyers for what he describes as their lack of grounding in the subject at hand:
OPR lawyers who conducted the investigation had no training or experience in complicated issues of separation of powers law, and were ignorant of the decades of practice within the executive branch on wartime power questions and of other sensitive programs that relied on legal grounds similar to those in our memos.
Yoo’s memos were quickly withdrawn by DOJ. Even Mukasey called one of the memos “a slovenly mistake,” according to OPR’s report.