No punishment for Bush aides who advocated torture

Bush administration lawyers who drafted legal theories that led to waterboarding and other harsh treatment of terrorism suspects showed poor judgment but won’t face sanctions for professional misconduct, according to a published report.

A forthcoming government ethics report initially concluded the two key authors of the so-called torture memos, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, who were officials in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration, had violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted the memos that allowed the use of harsh interrogation tactics.

But a senior Justice Department official, David Margolis, later softened the department’s finding to say the authors simply showed poor judgment, Newsweek reported.

Margolis, who is a career lawyer and not a political appointee of the Obama administration, has supervised the department’s internal discipline through several administrations from his post in the deputy attorney general’s office.

He declined to comment Saturday to The Associated Press.

The finding is likely to unsettle interest groups who contended there should be sanctions for Bush administration lawyers who paved the way for tough interrogations, warrantless wiretapping and other coercive tactics. Bybee is now a federal appeals court judge in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals covering several Western states, and Yoo is a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley.