The U.S. Justice Department may be punting on the government lawyers who authored the so-called torture memos, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn't willing to let go just yet.
In a decision disclosed a week ago, the department overruled its own ethics officials, who said that state disciplinary boards should consider whether John Yoo and Jay Bybee be disbarred for violating their duty.
In a statement issued today in conjunction with a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the matter, Feinstein suggested that there is still something fishy that deserves attention.
"By all accounts, John Yoo and Jay Bybee were not incapable lawyers," she said in a statement. "There were reasons why their OLC memos were so poor. We need to understand these reasons and make sure they have been properly addressed. We need to make sure that the many negative consequences of these opinions are examined and remedied. And we need to ensure that Congress is properly informed of opinions of this nature, so that we can properly exercise our responsibility to provide oversight of the Department of Justice and make whatever changes in the law may be necessary as a result of such opinions."
The two lawyers "significantly misinterpreted U.S. law and international treaty obligations, to reach pre-ordained conclusions, with grave consequences for our national security," the California Democrat added. "The OLC memos reached egregious conclusions that coercive interrogation techniques did not cause severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that their use did not 'shock the conscience.' They were absolutely wrong."
As a Bee editorial this week pointed out, Feinstein is in an influential position because she is on the Judiciary Committee and is also chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, where she is privy to the details of the interrogations. That panel launched an inquiry last March into the CIA's detention and interrogation program and the results are due soon.
Feinstein, due to illness, missed the Judiciary hearing today on Yoo, who is now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Bybee, now a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
At the hearing itself, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and watchdog groups weren't willing to let bygones be bygones for Yoo and Bybee. According to news reports, they demanded that the Justice Department investigate the disappearance of e-mail messages sent during 2002 as they drafted the memos. Leahy suggested that the missing e-mails cast doubt on the department's report clearing the two men of misconduct.