There is something seriously out of whack -- and I do mean seriously -- when the only punishment recommended for two former Justice Department lawyers who "committed serious lapses of judgment" in writing memos justifying the use of torture is possible disbarment. But that is the upshot of the draft version of a report from Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility begun in the closing days of the Bush administration and in all likelihood to be endorsed by the Obama administration.
Recall that the last time we heard from the OPR it concerned Monica Goodling, a rabid Regent University soldier of God who was a partisan whore to gigolo Attorney General Gonzalez and violated federal law by screening job applicants for career positions based on their political and ideological affiliations, as well as whether they might be gays or lesbians.
If job applicants were not Republican enough, conservative enough and enamored enough of President Bush and his policies, as well as heterosexual enough, they were shown the door.
Goodling's punishment? The OPR concluded and by then Attorney General Mukasey concurred that Goodling's resignation "had been punishment enough."
By comparison, the punishment recommended for Jay Bybee and John Yoo, two of the three Office of Legal Counsel attorneys who wrote the torture memos, is tougher but grotesquely laughable if in its own way appropriate: That Bybee, a Circuit Court judge in San Francisco, and Yoo, a UC Berkeley law school professor, be disbarred by the California Bar Association.
A little perspective is in order here:
The same Justice Department that has pushed for stiff penalties against terminally ill medical marijuana users and their suppliers doesn't even give a wrist slap to a high department official who clearly broke the law and recommends what is in effect a wrist slap for two morally reprehensible high department lawyers.
These lawyers used junk law to justify waterboarding and other torture techniques that violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and international law, conventions and treaties. While the memos were thick with citations, it should come as no surprise that none of them included the fact that their government had prosecuted law enforcement officials and Japanese officers for using waterboarding during World war II.
Meanwhile, Steven Bradbury, the third lawyer, gets off Scot free.
Bradbury remained the head of OLC until the end of Bush's second term. It is not clear why he skates in the OPR report, perhaps because he didn't show up in the email trail between the White House and Justice, or Bush's minions forgot to destroy the other emails as they tried to do with the torture paper trail.
Anyhow, in a typical Justice conflict of interest, Bradberry was allowed to participate in the OLC's review and respond to it despite the fact that he played a leading role in drafting the memos.
And to add insult to injury, Attorney General Holder is not expected to make major changes to the report's findings or recommendations.
This will not be the final word on the fate of this loathsome threesome. I continue to hold out hope for a 9/11-type commission to investigate the entire torture regime, but when Justice sets the bar so laughably low, it becomes more difficult to see anyone truly being held accountable.PHOTOS (Top to bottom):
Gonzalez, Cheney, Goodling, Bybee, Yoo and Bradbury.