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Former OLC Director Not Opposed to Criminal Investigation of OLC Lawyers

Former Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin, who headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush after the departure of Jack Goldsmith, said this morning that “I personally am not opposed to criminal investigation of my conduct and others during the period in question.” Levin was referring to the period between 2002 and 2006, when the Office of Legal Counsel was producing memos justifying the use of “extreme” interrogation tactics on detainees in U.S. custody which many legal experts now say amounted to torture.

Levin’s remarks were made this morning at a conference at the Washington College of Law at American University addressing the ethical responsibilities of OLC lawyers and how they should be held accountable for authorizing abusive conduct that now appears to have been illegal. “Any government employee is appropriately subject to investigation of their conduct while they’re serving in government,” said Levin, who is now a partner at the law firm White & Case.

Later in the discussion, Levin also said that a truth commission that would investigate and reveal how the lawyers in his office reached their conclusions “would be useful.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has proposed such a commission, but so far apparently does not have majority support for the idea in Congress. Levin spoke on a panel of experts that included Georgetown Law Professor David Luban, Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron, and Newsweek columnist Stuart Taylor.

“Maybe the [Office of Professional Responsibility] report will give some of the factual basis that will allow people to make judgments about that,” said Levin, referring to the ethics report of the OLC lawyers’ work conducted by a division of the Justice Department which has yet to be released. The report was drafted over several years and completed by the end of the Bush administration. “But I would agree if you could have a serious look at this it would be very valuable.”

Upon completion, the OPR report was sent to its subjects — including former OLC lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Stephen Bradbury, for their review and comment — and is still under Justice Department and possibly CIA review. It reportedly analyzes the lawyers’ communications with senior government officials and is highly critical of their conduct.

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