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Durbin and Whitehouse Raise Concerns About Pending OPR Report

More than a year ago, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill..) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the conduct of lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel, whose work provided legal justifications for waterboarding and other abusive interrogation tactics.

Since then, the two senators (and many others) have been asking about the progress of the investigation, which they learned was completed by the end of the last administration. The OPR’s report, however, which was not released publicly at the request of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

On Tuesday, Durbin and Whitehouse received assurances from the department that although the subjects of the report — including former OLC head Steven Bradbury, who signed several of the recently released OLC memos authorizing waterboarding and other “extreme” techniques — were allowed to review and comment on the draft, “this opportunity for review and comment was fair and reasonably correlates with the process usually applicable to OPR investigations relating to former employees. . . .Any revisions to the report thereafter will be based upon OPR’s best judgments about the accuracy and fairness of the document.” The comments from the report’s subjects were due on Monday.

The letter from the Justice Department to Durbin and Whitehouse sent yesterday also indicates that the CIA was given a copy of the report to review, both for classification purposes and to comment.

Here’s what Durbin and Whitehouse had to say about that:

While we are disappointed to learn that DOJ allowed Stephen Bradbury to participate in OLC’s ‘review and response’ to the report – despite the fact that he played a leading role in drafting the memos under review – we look forward to the prompt completion of this report, and we are pleased by the strong implication in the letter that former OPR chief Marshall Jarrett’s pledge to release the report will be honored.

We will be interested in the scope of the ‘substantive comment’ the CIA is providing, and the reasons why an outside agency would have such comment on an internal disciplinary matter.

Because the OPR report examines the role of the lawyers at the center of the torture scandal, it’s been much-anticipated by journalists and critics of the Bush administration, who expect it to be sharply critical of the legal opinions provided.

As I noted earlier today, lawyers for the targets of the investigation have reportedly been lobbying the Justice Department to water down the report’s conclusions.

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