Durbin, Whitehouse Seek Status of Report on Torture Authorizations at the Department of Justice
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter today to H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Department of Justice's Office for Professional Responsibility (OPR), asking about the status of OPR's investigation of Justice Department attorneys who provided legal advice regarding waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques.
"Our intelligence professionals should be able to rely in good faith on the Justice Department's legal advice. This good faith is undermined when Justice Department attorneys provide legal advice so misguided that it damages America's image around the world and the Justice Department is forced to repudiate it. If the officials who provide such advice fail to comply with professional standards, they must be held accountable in order to maintain the faith of the intelligence community and the American people in the Justice Department," the Senators wrote.
The report, requested by Durbin and Whitehouse over a year ago, was reportedly completed before the end of the Bush Administration, but then Attorney General Michael Mukasey objected to its findings and refused to release the report. According to a recent report in Newsweek, the OPR report is very critical of former Justice Department officials Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and Stephen Bradbury.
Durbin and Whitehouse, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have both expressed deep concern about the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. They have repeatedly questioned the legality of the procedures and the circumstances in which they were authorized.
A copy of the letter to Mr. Jarrett is pasted below.
February 16, 2009
The Honorable H. Marshall Jarrett
Counsel for Professional Responsibility
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 3266
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Mr. Jarrett:
We write to inquire about the status of the Office of Professional Responsibility's (OPR) investigation of Justice Department attorneys who provided legal advice regarding waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques.
According to "A Torture Report Could Spell Big Trouble for Bush Lawyers," a February 14th Newsweek article by Michael Isikoff, a draft report on OPR's findings was "submitted in the final weeks of the Bush Administration." The article states that the OPR report "sharply criticized" former Justice Department officials Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and Stephen Bradbury, and that then Attorney General Michael Mukasey "strongly objected" to the report's findings.
As you know, on February 12, 2008, we sent a letter to you and Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine requesting an investigation of Justice Department officials who authorized waterboarding and asking whether the results of this investigation would be provided to Congress and the American people.
On February 18, 2008, you responded that you were investigating whether legal advice in Office of Legal Counsel memoranda regarding interrogation techniques "was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice Attorneys." You also wrote: "Upon completion of our investigation, we will provide you with our results. Moreover, because of the significant public interest in this matter, OPR will consider releasing to Congress and the public a non-classified summary of our final report."
On July 9, 2008, during a Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Durbin asked then Attorney General Mukasey whether he would approve the release of OPR's investigation. Attorney General Mukasey testified under oath, "If OPR wants it released, it will be released."
On October 1, 2008, Senator Durbin's chief counsel sent an e-mail to Keith B. Nelson, then Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Office of Legislative Affairs, stating, "Can you please let me know the status of OPR's investigation of DOJ attorneys who provided advice on interrogation matters? ... OPR Counsel Marshall Jarrett said he would provide the Senators with the results of the investigation upon its completion." On October 16, 2008, Mr. Nelson responded, "Heard back from OPR. Should be done in 4-5 weeks. I believe he [Marshall Jarrett] will provide it to the Members. I'll let you know if anything else develops." Mr. Nelson did not contact Senator Durbin's staff again regarding this matter.
It has been one year since you notified us about OPR's investigation. We would appreciate an update on the investigation's status and would be grateful if you would respond to the following questions:
1. Have you submitted a draft report on OPR's findings? If so, when did you submit this report?
2. Did then Attorney General Mukasey object to the draft report's findings? If so, please describe these objections.
3. Has OPR interviewed Justice Department attorneys who provided legal advice regarding interrogation techniques, including former Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, former OLC Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, and former OLC Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stephen Bradbury? If so, when did OPR conduct these interviews?
4. Have you recommended that an unclassified summary of OPR's report be released to Congress and the public? If so, when do you plan to release this summary?
5. Will you release to appropriate committees of Congress the classified portions (if any) of your report?
We agree with Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA Director Leon Panetta that our intelligence professionals should be able to rely in good faith on the Justice Department's legal advice. This good faith is undermined when Justice Department attorneys provide legal advice so misguided that it damages America's image around the world and the Justice Department is forced to repudiate it. If the officials who provide such advice fail to comply with professional standards, they must be held accountable in order to maintain the faith of the intelligence community and the American people in the Justice Department.
Our interest in this matter is such that we request that you respond to this letter at your earliest convenience, and if possible no later than February 23, 2009. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Richard J. Durbin
Next Article Previous Article