WASHINGTON – The Justice Department reviewed newly found e-mails sent by a Bush administration lawyer and stands by a conclusion that the attorney did not commit professional misconduct in authorizing CIA interrogators to use waterboarding and other harsh tactics, a department letter shows.
The review of the additional e-mails did not alter the earlier assessment that the lawyer, John Yoo, merely had exhibited poor judgment, according to the letter to the House and Senate judiciary committees. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The content of the newly found e-mails was not described in the letter. Department officials, however, briefed congressional staffers on the matter last Friday after making the recovered e-mails available to the two congressional committees for review, the letter said.
The issue of Yoo and missing e-mails arose in one of the major lingering investigations into the counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush's administration.
Liberal Democrats had pressed for action against the former Justice Department lawyers who wrote the so-called torture memos — Yoo and Jay Bybee.
An initial examination by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility found that Bybee, now a federal appellate judge, and Yoo, now a law professor, had committed professional misconduct. However, the Justice Department's top career lawyer reviewed the matter and disagreed.
In its report released in January, OPR investigators said they were told that most of Yoo's e-mail records had been deleted and were not recoverable, nor were some of the e-mail records of another lawyer in Yoo's office, Patrick Philbin.
The department has conducted a review regarding e-mails of Yoo and Philbin "that were not available to OPR during its investigation," the department's letter to Capitol Hill said. "Nothing in the e-mails changes the conclusion" about Yoo and Bybee, who also was found by top career lawyer David Margolis to have exhibited poor judgment but not to have committed professional misconduct.
The former president's new memoir, "Decision Points," recalls his attitude toward harsh interrogation techniques.
When the CIA asked whether it could subject professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to waterboarding, which evokes the sensation of downing, Bush's response was, "Damn right," according to the memoir.
The president added that the CIA interrogation program saved lives.