Thursday, February 16, 2006

Legal ethics as another window on the Bush regime

"Justice Department Reviews Role of Its Lawyers in Spying"

"Justice Dept. Role in Eavesdropping Decision Under Review"

It's been pretty clear since the Torture Memo was uncovered that some government lawyers are overdue for a profound review by a professional responsibility committee - starting at the time with Jay S. Bybee, since it was his Hancock on the letter - and John Yoo when he was revealed as the author. Quite simply, the interpretation of the law propounded in that memo is so twisted, in a way so abominably offensive to the statutes it interpreted (and the Constitution), that it constitutes compelling prima facie evidence of a betrayal of its authors' ethical duty, as employees of the DOJ, to their client, the United States of America. Al Gonzales would have to be included in that ring too now - among all else, he explicitly referred to Bush as "the client" before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Too bad for the American people. And too bad for the same committee when they blessed Bybee's appointment to the Ninth Circuit while his signature on that excrement was still wrapped in shadow.

But no administration would be able to weed a DOJ entirely free of lawyers with some identifiable measure of respect for their ethical duties, at least not thus far. Enter H. Marshall Jarrett, chief of the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility. How did the Bush team manage to leave a Clinton appointee in such a position all this time? I guess it makes sense it wouldn't have been a Bush appointee to take this step - although credit has to be given to the appointment of Jim Comey.

Jarrett is apparently launching an ethics review of the DOJ lawyers with respect to the NSA program. One might ask what has taken him so long, to which the answer just might be that no one was much interested in letting him in on it, until the New York Times.

They can keep trying their ludicrous arguments that it's "legal" for the president to act in disregard of the legislature, the courts, and the Bill of Rights, and if you're not in favor of fascism, you're in favor of terror. Congress has been all too ambivalent about asserting its own role. But a professional ethics review of the attorney general and a sitting federal appellate judge would be a great way to get the straight story on the table and accelerate the inevitable shedding of denial about the unlawfulness and threat to democracy of the "unitary executive" canard.

And while the professional responsibility investigations are going on, it's also high time that BYU, Yale, and Harvard Law Schools retroactively flunk Bybee, Yoo and Gonzales from their first year con law classes and revoke their law degrees.

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