John Yoo, Jay Bybee and the other government lawyers who penned the infamous Bush-era torture memos are off the hook, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Late last month, the department cleared them of all charges of professional misconduct. In so doing, DOJ claimed that "the public's ability to make its own judgments" about wrongdoing on the part of the torture team is more important than whether DOJ found ethical violations.
In truth, the investigation failed to uncover key facts — predicate information that would make a public debate possible. The investigation reached only DOJ lawyers, not the White House and CIA officials who may have pressured them to distort the law and sign off on torture.
Even the limited facts revealed by the investigation are troubling. Yoo told investigators that the president has the authority to order not only torture but the massacre of entire villages. In discussing whether interrogators could terrify a prisoner afraid of insects by putting him in a box and unleashing a bug into it, Yoo asked: "[D]o we know if Boo-boo is allergic to certain insects?" Yoo called one of the torture memos the "bad things opinion."
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