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Surprise, DoJ Torture Report Says Don’t Prosecute the Lawyers

The latest word on the Justice Department’s Office Of Professional Responsibility review of the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted the so-called “torture memos” is that the report concludes that the the lawyers committed “serious lapses in judgment,” as The New York Times puts it in a front page story today, but they should not be prosecuted. How exactly the authors reached that conclusion remains unclear, given that the 220-page investigation is still in draft form and hasn’t been made public.

On the other hand, it’s not exactly a surprise that the forthcoming report won’t recommend prosecution. As I wrote yesterday, a draft was given to its subjects — the OLC lawyers who wrote the torture memos — for their review and comment. Revisions were then made based on their responses. A copy was also given to the CIA for its review and response, though the report wasn’t about the CIA, but rather the legal justification provided for their tactics. All this extraordinary outside input on an internal ethics investigation has sparked serious concern among some senators, particularly Durbin and Whitehouse, who’ve been pushing for full, open and objective investigations of what happened and why.

Meanwhile, the The Washington Post has reported that since the draft was made available to the OLC lawyers, their lawyers have been lobbying the Justice Department to water down the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

So are we really surprised that the ethics report — when and if it’s ever finally released — will not recommend prosecution of the architects and apologists of the Bush torture and abuse policies?

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) yesterday put it well when he reminded bloggers in his home state that it wasn’t popular to prosecute the architects and legal justifiers of Nazi policy, either. But his father, a Nuremberg prosecutor, and others insisted that “we’re different. There is a thing called the rule of law.”

So why release all the documents revealing illegal conduct if you’re not going to do anything about it, asks Dodd. “If people in fact did something illegal they ought to be pursued for it.”

Here’s the video:

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