One of the top Bush-era lawyers who authorized waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics exercised "poor judgment" but should not be disbarred, an internal Justice Department review showed.
According to the Office of Professional Responsibility, John Yoo engaged in "professional misconduct," a finding that could have stripped him of his law license.
But now the California law professor will be free to offer his controversial views on almost entirely unbounded presidential authority for future administrations.
Newsweek's Michael Isikoff notes that Yoo also "told Justice Department investigators that the president's war-making authority was so broad that he had the constitutional power to order a village to be 'massacred,' according to a report released Friday night by the Office of Professional Responsibility."
Pressed on his views in an interview with OPR investigators, Yoo was asked:
"What about ordering a village of resistants to be massacred? ... Is that a power that the president could legally -"
"Yeah," Yoo replied, according to a partial transcript included in the report. "Although, let me say this: So, certainly, that would fall within the commander-in-chief's power over tactical decisions."
"To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?" the OPR investigator asked again.
"Sure," said Yoo.
"The views of former Justice lawyer John Yoo were deemed to be so extreme and out of step with legal precedents that they prompted the Justice Department's internal watchdog office to conclude last year that he committed 'intentional professional misconduct' when he advised the CIA it could proceed with waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques against Al Qaeda suspects," Isikoff notes.
The Washington Post reports that Yoo and Bybee "allegedly worked with officials in the White House and at the CIA to structure their controversial legal analysis."
The Post added: "In its final report, the OPR said it had tried unsuccessfully to access Yoo's e-mail messages during his time at the Justice Department, and was told that 'most of Yoo's e-mail records had been deleted and were not recoverable.'"
"Justice Department lawyers have an obligation to uphold the law, so when they write legal opinions that were designed to provide legal cover for torture, they need to be held accountable with more than a slap on the wrist," said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch.
Jameel Jaffer, who heads the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, called on the Justice Department to expand its investigation into the interrogation practices.
(with AFP report)