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DOJ: Lawyers who authorized torture didn't commit misconduct

WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers showed "poor judgment" but did not commit professional misconduct when they authorized CIA interrogators to use waterboarding and other harsh tactics at the height of the U.S. war on terrorism, an internal review released Friday found.

The decision closes the book on one of the major lingering investigations into the counterterrorism policies of George W. Bush's administration. President Barack Obama campaigned on abolishing the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding and other tactics that he called torture, but he left open the question of whether anyone would be punished for authorizing such methods.

An initial review by the Justice Department's internal affairs unit found that former government lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo had committed professional misconduct, a conclusion that could have cost them their law licenses. But the Justice Department's top career lawyer reviewed the matter and disagreed.

"This decision should not be viewed as an endorsement of the legal work that underlies those memoranda," Assistant Deputy Attorney General David Margolis wrote in a memo released Friday.

Both Yoo and Bybee are out of the government, and the decision spares them any immediate sanctions.

The memos authorized CIA interrogators to use waterboarding, keep detainees naked, hold them in painful standing positions and keep them in the cold for long periods of time. Other techniques included depriving them of solid food and slapping them. Sleep deprivation, prolonged shackling and threats to a detainee's family were also used.

Anthrax case closed

After seven years investigating the 2001 anthrax mailings, the FBI closed the case Friday, concluding a government researcher, Dr. Bruce Ivins, acted alone in the attacks that killed five people. Newly released FBI documents describe Ivins as a troubled scientist whose career was teetering toward failure at the time the letters were sent. As the United States responded to the mailings, his work was given new importance by the government and he was even honored for his efforts on anthrax. The anthrax letters were sent to lawmakers and news organizations as the nation reeled in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Ivins killed himself in 2008 as prosecutors prepared to indict him for the attacks. He had denied involvement, and his family and some friends have continued to insist he was innocent.

DOJ: Lawyers who authorized torture didn't commit misconduct 02/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 19, 2010 10:31pm]
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