Commentary: Bush 'torture memos' must not be forgotten

The Sacramento BeeFebruary 24, 2010 

Nearly a year after the 9/11 attacks, a pair of government lawyers produced memos that gave cover to the Bush administration's subsequent use of waterboarding and interrogation techniques widely considered to be forms of torture.

Those documents – and the damage they caused to America's standing in the world – should never be forgotten. Sadly, there's a real chance of such a memory lapse following a decision last week by the Obama administration.

Late Friday, the U.S. Justice Department closed its books on John Yoo and Jay Bybee, concluding that the two attorneys should not be held legally responsible for writing the "torture memos" in 2002 and 2003. The Justice report reversed the recommendation of its own ethics officials, who had slammed Yoo for purposely violating his duty to provide "objective and candid legal advice" and Bybee for acting in "reckless disregard" of his responsibilities.

Before the two slink off scot-free, the relevant disciplinary boards – in Pennsylvania in Yoo's case, the District of Columbia in Bybee's – should take a hard look at their transgressions and decide whether to revoke their law licenses.

That's what the ethics officials recommended for these two lawyers. (Yoo since has returned as a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Bybee was appointed by then-President George W. Bush to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.)

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