First Thing We Do: Investigate Bush's Lawyers
Last week on the blog The Free for All, civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate issued a call for an ethics investigation of the Department of Justice lawyers who advised the CIA on the legality of its torture practices. Yesterday, Silverglate renewed that call, finding both precedent and vindication in the Justice Department's indictment this week of a well-respected Florida lawyer for the advice he gave a second lawyer.
Silverglate's first call came in the wake of news reports that Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey would not allow an investigation of CIA interrogators because they had acted in reliance on the opinion of Justice Department lawyers. Those who rely on a Justice Department legal opinion should not be subject to criminal investigation when "the political winds change," Mukasey told the House Judiciary Committee. Fair enough, responded Silverglate, but that hardly ends the inquiry. "Why are these lawyers not being investigated in order to determine whether they wrote their legal opinions in good faith, or instead made up fanciful legal theories to appease the administration’s interest in taking the gloves off when it came to dealing with suspected terrorists?"
As Silverglate was writing that first post, the Justice Department was in Miami, unsealing an indictment against Ben Kuehne, a respected Miami lawyer whose clients have included former Vice President Al Gore. The charges stemmed from legal opinion letters Kuehne wrote for another high-profile attorney, Roy Black, allegedly paving the way for Black to receive tainted legal payments from an accused Colombian drug kingpin. If a respected private lawyer can be prosecuted for his legal advice, should not the same hold true for Justice Department lawyers? Silverglate asks.
But let’s be generous and say that prosecution would be overkill -- or let’s be pragmatic and say that in this political climate it simply won’t happen. But if a respected Miami lawyer can be indicted for writing a legal opinion -- which many Florida lawyers believe to have been written in good faith -- on a drug-money question, then surely government lawyers can and should have to undergo, at minimum, an ethics investigation for selling out themselves, the legal profession, and American politico-legal values in order to tell Bush and Cheney that they could torture prisoners to their hearts’ content.
Silverglate points to Scott Horton's post last week for Harper's Magazine, in which he makes a similar argument, specifically directed to John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, the Office of Legal Counsel staffers who wrote the torture memos. "So if we apply the reasoning the Justice Department advances in the Kuehne case," Horton writes, "Yoo and Bradbury are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to subvert the law and may be chargeable in connection with the underlying crimes." What's good for the goose, in other words, is good for the DOJ.
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 13, 2008 at 12:11 PM | Permalink
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