Watchdog Sues Over John Yoo Emails

In February, the Justice Department finally released the details of its investigation into whether Bush lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee violated ethics rules when they composed the “torture memos” that provided the legal justification for the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program.

The report by DOJ’s in-house watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), found that Yoo and Bybee were guilty of “professional misconduct.” But the OPR investigators were overruled by David Margolis, a career Justice Department official, and the Bush lawyers faced no consequences for their actions.

Still, the OPR report included a number of interesting details about how the detention and interrogation program was constructed—and how DOJ went about looking into it. Perhaps the most salient tidbit concerned John Yoo’s emails, which OPR lawyers couldn’t locate. “It became apparent” during the investigation “that relevant documents were missing,” the OPR investigators wrote. Among the missing items were “most” of Yoo’s emails, which “had been deleted and were not recoverable.”

Federal officials are generally required to preserve their emails. So Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog group, asked the DOJ to determine whether a crime had been committed. CREW, which sued the Bush administration over missing White House emails, soon followed-up with a series of Freedom of Information Act requests attempting to determine the scope of the DOJ’s recordkeeping problems. On Tuesday, the non-profit announced that it’s suing. “The public deserves to know the truth behind the… torture memos,” Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, said in a statement. “The Obama administration faces a choice: it can cover-up the Bush administration’s misdeeds or allow the truth to come out and help the country confront and move past this shameful episode.”