An internal Justice Department inquiry has concluded that Bush administration lawyers committed serious lapses of judgment in writing secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations but that they should not be prosecuted, according to government officials briefed on its findings.
The report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department, is also likely to ask state bar associations to consider possible disciplinary action, which could include reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions, the officials said.
The conclusions of the 220-page draft report are not final and have not yet been approved by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. The officials said that it is possible that the final report might be subject to further revision but that they did not expect major alterations in its main findings or recommendations.
The findings, growing out of an inquiry that started in 2004, would represent a stinging rebuke of the lawyers and their legal arguments.
But they would stop short of the criminal referral sought by some human rights advocates, who have suggested that the lawyers could be prosecuted as part of a criminal conspiracy to violate the anti-torture statute. President Obama has said the Justice Department would have to decide whether the lawyers who authorized the interrogation methods should face charges, while pledging that interrogators would not be investigated or prosecuted for using techniques that the lawyers said were legal.
I would prefer criminal charges, but shoddy, dishonest lawyering is also the domain of star bar associations, so it's only appropriate that the involved DOJ lawyers could lose their ability to practice their profession (a la Scotter Libby.) Of course, that's hardly a guaranteed outcome. And this is only a recommendation. The question of whether or not criminal charges will be filed should come down to the attorneys now occupying the DOJ.
UPDATE: And of course, former Bush administration officials are lobbying for a softer conclusion to the report. Because you know, they haven't done enough damage as it is.