What Happened to that OTHER OPR Report?

Remember the OPR Report? No, not the OPR Report on John Yoo’s laughably bad torture memos. I’m talking about the OPR Report on John Yoo’s even worse memo(s) authorizing domestic surveillance. The Torture OPR Report notes that it was the domestic surveillance memo, and not the torture memos, that first clued Jack Goldsmith into how dangerous John Yoo was.

Because of the problems with Yoo’s NSA opinions, Goldsmith asked Philbin, who was familiar with Yoo’s work at OLC, to bring him copies of any other opinions that might be problematic.

And it was OPR’s investigation into the domestic surveillance memo–not the investigation into torture memos (as far as we know)–that George Bush tried to spike by refusing investigators the clearance to conduct the investigation.

Last we’ve heard official mention of this OPR investigation was last July, in the combined IG Report on warrantless wiretapping. At that point, we know, the investigation was not yet complete.

Title III of the FISA Amendments Act required that the report of any investigation of matters relating to the PSP conducted by the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) be provided to the DOJ Inspector General, and that the findings and conclusions of such investigation be included in the DOJ OIG review. OPR has initiated a review of whether any standards of professional conduct were violated in the preparation of the first series of legal memoranda supporting the PSP. OPR has not completed its review.

Since then we’ve heard nothing.

It turns out, I asked DOJ a week and a half ago about the report and got a “Oh, let me do research.” I did a follow-up last week (as it happens, on Friday, the day Dawn Johnsen withdrew her nomination) and got a very different response: “We don’t comment on OPR investigations.” Now, perhaps that’s just a prudent response after all the accusations Yoo and Bybee made that OPR was leaking information on the Torture memo investigation.


I find the secrecy around the domestic surveillence OPR Report all the more interesting given that DOJ still hasn’t decided what to do about the 2006 White Paper used to justify warrantless wiretapping after Jim Comey and Jack Goldsmith realized the inherent powers argument failed. Mind you, David Barron’s OLC passed what appears–from Glenn Fine’s description–just as troubling as those two earlier memos back on January 8, 2010. So maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe we’re doomed to have OLC recklessly authorize illegal wiretapping of Americans in the dark of night, no matter who’s in charge there.

Nevertheless, it does seem worthwhile to remember that John Yoo was investigated not just for his egregious torture memos, but also for saying the President didn’t have to follow the law–even the laws saying that Presidents can’t wiretap Americans.

Spike the Yoo Findings, Get a Judgeship?

Last week, I suggested that the role Mary Patrice Brown played in softening the conclusion of the OPR report on John Yoo deserved closer scrutiny. Less than a year ago, Eric Holder shifted the head of OPR into a different DOJ role. Almost immediately, OPR backed off its promise that the results of the OPR report would be public. And then, after Holder named Brown to head OPR, the report got stalled and, eventually, softened.

Now, less than a year after Brown took over the office, the Obama Administration reportedly plans to move her into a new position: a lifetime appointment as a DC District Court judge.

The White House and the Justice Department are vetting the head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, Mary Patrice Brown, for a federal judgeship, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Brown, a well-regarded career prosecutor, is expected to secure a nomination to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, assuming she clears her FBI background check and American Bar Association review, the people said.

Now, Main Justice reports that Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton recommended Brown.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton sent Brown’s name to the White House, along with eight others, for three vacancies on the court. (The names were generated by Norton’s nominating commission, the same group that interviewed candidates for U.S. Attorney in the District.) The White House appears to have pared the list down to three names, and the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy has been assisting with the vetting since December, the people said.

Nevertheless, Brown’s career trajectory over the last year makes me all the more curious about precisely how the OPR report has been delayed and softened under her management.

Wilkerson on Durham’s Investigation

A number of you have pointed to Andy Worthington’s detailed interview with Lawrence Wilkerson. You should read the whole thing, if only to see Wilkerson tee up on Crazy Cheney.

But the part I found most interesting is this bit:

Lawrence Wilkerson: No. My wife thinks that ultimately there’s going to be something. I’m a little more cynical than she, but she’s convinced that this investigation that’s been going on [by John Durham] — very low-key, the guy’s very persistent, he’s very determined, he reminds me of [Patrick] Fitzgerald on the Valerie Plame case, and his starting point is the destruction of the videotapes, and I’m told he’s got a plan, and he’s following that plan, and I’m told that plan is bigger than I think. [my emphasis]

While I was on the record as saying Durham’s appointment probably meant the torture investigation would never go after John Yoo or John Rizzo or Addington (because it would be harder for an AUSA to go after so senior an official), I also said there’s one scenario in which Durham’s appointment could be a good sign. That’s if the evidence Durham had discovered in the torture tape investigation was part of the new information that merited reopening investigations into torture itself that–even credible people seem to think–has already been investigated.

Now, there are a few more breadcrumbs that suggest the lawyers may be as much a focus of this as the torturers. When Eric Holder announced the investigation, for example, he described the two inquiries as related and Durham’s mandate as expanded.

Assistant United States Attorney John Durham was appointed in 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the destruction of CIA videotapes of detainee interrogations. During the course of that investigation, Mr. Durham has gained great familiarity with much of the information that is relevant to the matter at hand. Accordingly, I have decided to expand his mandate to encompass this related review.

Then there’s the detail that Holder decided he had to do an investigation after reading not just the torture memos and the IG Report, but also the  OPR Report.

But, then, Holder decided to take a close, personal look at the issues, and his perspective began to change. Read more