Torture Memo Probe By Justice Dept: Draft Calls For Disciplinary Action, Bush Aides Trying To Water Down

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is nearing the end of its probe into Bush administration lawyers who wrote secret memos approving harsh interrogation techniques.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of a letter from the Justice Department informing two members of Congress that a key deadline in the inquiry expired Monday.

The inquiry has become a politically-loaded guessing game, with some advocating criminal charges against the lawyers, and others urging the matter be dropped.

The letter did not indicate what the findings of the final report will be. Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and Steven Bradbury worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and played key roles in crafting the legal justification for techniques critics call torture.

UPDATE 2:30 PM ET: The Washington Post reports that former Bush administration officials are "launching a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign" to urge Obama Justice officials to "soften" the ethics report on the torture memo authors.

The Post also reports that a 200-page draft report of the memo, prepared in January before President Bush's departure, "recommends disciplinary action by state bar associations against two former department attorneys in the Office of Legal Counsel who might have committed misconduct in preparing and signing the so-called torture memos. State bar associations have the power to suspend a lawyer's license to practice or impose other penalties."

Read the full Post story here.

The AP added later that the finalized report stops short of recommending a criminal investigation, but investigators recommended referring two of the three lawyers to bar associations for possible disciplinary action.

And the New York Times adds that the inquiry has concluded "that the authors committed serious lapses of judgment but should not be criminally prosecuted, according to government officials briefed on a draft of the findings."

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