Congress to Hold Hearings on “Torture Memos” Report

On Friday, the DOJ released a June 2009 Office of Professional Responsibility report finding that two Bush lawyers, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, were guilty of “professional misconduct” in their construction of the memos. But the OPR report was accompanied by a 69-page memo, written in January 2010 by a top Justice Department, that negated the report’s “misconduct” finding and said Yoo and Bybee were guilty only of “poor judgement.”

Both the House and Senate judiciary committees are planning hearings on the Justice Department’s review of Bush administration lawyers’ involvement in the crafting of the so-called “torture memos.” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the chair of the House commitee, “intends to hold a hearing on these matters shortly,” according to a press release. “Today’s report makes plain that those memos were legally flawed and fundamentally unsound,” Conyers said in the release. “Even worse, it reveals that the memos were not the independent product of the Department of Justice, but were shaped by top officials of the Bush White House.” The lawyers who wrote the memos “wdishonored their office and the entire Department of Justice,” Conyers said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who runs the Senate committee, has already scheduled a hearing for next Friday. In a statement, Leahy accused the Bush lawyers of taking a “premeditated approach in constructing the legal underpinnings of seriously flawed national security policies.” Leahy also echoed human rights groups’ concerns about Bybee continuing in his current position as a federal appeals court judge. “If the Judiciary Committee, and the Senate, knew of Judge Bybee’s role in creating these policies, he would have never been confirmed to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench,” he said. “The right thing to do would be for him to resign from this lifetime appointment.”

No witnesses have been announced, but Bybee and Yoo could both conceivably be asked to testify.