Department Of Justice Review Clears Yoo of Misconduct

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 19, 2010 - 10:32:00 PM

An internal review by the U.S. Department of Justice released Friday said that the lawyers who authorized waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques under the Bush administration showed “poor judgment” but were not guilty of professional misconduct. 

The Justice Department’s findings clear John Yoo, a tenured professor at UC Berkeley and Jay Bybee, both former lawyers in the Department of Justice, of charges that could have had them disbarred. 

Community activists and law students have protested outside the UC Berkeley law school for months, calling for Yoo to be fired and stripped of his legal license. Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley has responded to the criticism by defending Yoo’s actions on the basis of academic freedom. Edley said earlier that he would wait for the Justice Departments report to make any further decisions about Yoo’s future at the university. Law school officials could not be reached for comment immediately. 

Although an earlier review by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found that Yoo and Bybee had engaged in professional misconduct, the Justice Department’s top lawyer did not agree after reviewing the issue. 

“This decision should not be viewed as an endorsement of the legal work that underlies those memoranda,” Assistant Deputy Attorney General David Margolis said in a memo Friday. 

Although Margolis called the memos flawed, he said that Yoo and Bybee did not “recklessly” or “knowingly” give misleading advice to the Bush administration. 

“But as all that glitters is not gold, all flaws do not constitute professional misconduct,” he wrote. 

Margolis wrote “although Yoo and Bybee’s errors were more than minor, I do not believe they evidence serious deficiencies that could have prejudiced the client. ...While I have declined to adopt OPR’s findings of misconduct, I fear John Yoo’s loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligations to his client and led him to author opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, views of executive power while speaking for an institutional client.”