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OPR Report: Will It Undercut Cheney’s Legal Reliance Excuses?

Let’s take a closer look at the latest round of reporting on the as-yet-still-not-released OPR report on legal reasoning (or lack thereof) at the Bush/Cheney OLC. 

On the heels of Isikoff’s Saturday leakfest, Newsweek coughs up with some intriguing tidbits:

Filip also insisted that detailed responses from the three former senior lawyers at the department’s Office of Legal Counsel–Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury–be included as part of the final copy of the report, one former Bush administration lawyer told NEWSWEEK. (Bybee, Yoo and Bradbury did not respond to repeated requests for comment. In addition, Miguel Estrada, a lawyer who has represented Yoo on matters relating to his service at OLC, declined comment.)

 Citing information contained in the NEWSWEEK story, Durbin and Whitehouse in their letter Monday asked Jarrett to clarify the status of the report and tell them when it will be released. (Durbin also recently privately pushed David Ogden, nominee to be deputy attorney general, to make the release of the report a top priority, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee staffer who asked not to be identified talking about private discussions.)

The report, according to the senators and others, could have widespread implications. If Holder accepts the findings, the OPR report could be forwarded to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action against the lawyers. More broadly, the report would likely affect the broader debate over calls for a "truth commission" and other investigations of Bush-era policies.

Aside from whatever professional responsibility implications there may be ahead — and the WaPo hints that bar complaint referrals are forthcoming — it certainly calls fitness into question when a case like Youngstown can be so conspicuously absent from legal analysis on presidential powers.  And absent from publicly released OLC memoranda thus far.  Implausible.

I know we’ve talked at length about this, but I cannot emphasize enough how deliberate such an omission must have been. 

The question is: because the lawyers were not honest or competent enough to attempt to refute it? Or because they were ordered to omit its findings from their analysis in order to skew the results? And, if so, by whom and when?

Which is, ultimately, the crux of all of this, isn’t it?  Especially since Cheney’s been parading his "I relied on the lawyers" malarky for personal rehab.

Is the latest round of sympathetic leaks a by-product of Cheney’s "every Dick For himself" manifesto?  Or is this Yoo, Bradbury, Haynes or someone else on the legal practice hook?  

Because this from Durbin, Whitehouse, et al. is quite intriguing:

Durbin and Whitehouse spoke out after hearing complaints that the report may have fallen victim to foot-dragging by former Justice Department leaders who questioned its conclusions and its fairness. Memos issued by the OLC have been a frequent political pressure point. During the presidential transition, Bush officials refused to turn over the documents, prompting a high-level meeting between Fred Fielding, White House counsel for Bush, and Gregory B. Craig, who has become White House counsel for Obama. House and Senate Democrats continue to insist that the memos be released to the public.

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for the FIelding/Craig meeting. Anyone else wonder if Addington sat in?

Someone in this chain is getting antsy though.  How do I know?  because the "torture twins" have another op-ed in the WaPo making excuses.  Is it getting hot inside the Beltway now that so many things seem to be seeping out of the man-sized safe?  

Or is it the most recent refutation of their horrid policy pronouncements:

"It would be better that the government recognized that there are risks — rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism — that we live in fear and under a police state," said Stella Rimington, former head of MI5, the domestic intelligence-gathering agency.

In an interview with Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper, which was republished in the British press Tuesday, Rimington compared the controversial anti-terror practices at the U.S.-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba with Great Britain’s MI5 security service.

"MI5 does not" engage in the same activities, she said, adding that the U.S. practice of prosecuting terror suspects through the military system, and using widely denounced interrogation measures, "has achieved the opposite effect — there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification."

Heaven forbid we question efficacy, let alone legality, of these actions. That might call the whole shebang into question, eh? More on the human rights counter-terrorism assessment here. (H/T to pmorlan.)

The NYTimes, the ABA JournalScott Horton, and Raw Story have more.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com