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The Men Behind the Memos

The Men Behind the Memos

by Christopher Weaver, ProPublica - January 28, 2009 7:00 am EST

Steven Bradbury
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, OLC
April 2004-January 2009
Bradbury was the longest serving chief of the Bush administration's Office of Legal Counsel, despite having never been confirmed by the Senate to the post. His nomination was repeatedly struck down by the Senate Judiciary Committee, because the Justice Department refused to release legal decisions he'd signed. Shortly after becoming Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, Bradbury signed off on three new memos explicitly approving harsh interrogations.
Jay Bybee
Assistant Attorney General, OLC
November 2001-March 2003
Bybee signed the Aug. 1, 2002 memo outlining an aggressive policy for interrogation by the U.S. armed services and intelligence agencies, though his deputy, John C. Yoo, contributed to the document. The Office of Legal Counsel under Bybee's watch also produced many of the memos on interrogation, detainee treatment and military commissions that would prove controversial. He is now serving a lifetime appointment as a United States Court of Appeals judge.
James Comey Jr.
Deputy Attorney General
December 2003-August 2005
As the Department of Justice's No. 2 official, Comey stepped into the role of Acting Attorney General when John Ashcroft fell ill in March, 2004. Office of Legal Counsel officials had recently questioned the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program, and Comey refused to sign off on its reauthorization, leading to a tense confrontation with White House officials by Ashcroft's hospital bed. Ashcroft, Comey and other senior officials threatened to resign if their concerns were ignored.
Robert Delahunty
Speical Counsel, OLC
November 1992-May 2004
Delahunty joined the Office of Legal Counsel during George H. W. Bush's presidency, where he specialized in foreign relations and presidential war powers. Justice Department records show that he remained connected to the office until May, 2004, with the title of "Special Counsel," though he simultaneously served as deputy general counsel at the White House Office of Homeland Security in 2002 and 2003.
Jack Goldsmith III
Assistant Attorney General, OLC
October 2003-July 2004
Goldsmith joined the Office of Legal Counsel after serving as a deputy to the General Counsel to the Department of Defense, William J. Haynes, II, where he had warned of possible war crimes prosecutions against U.S. officials for their conduct in the War on Terror. Though he was an early supporter of military commissions, his views on detainee treatment grated with the administration's policies, prompting infighting during his nine-month tenure. He resigned on the same day he withdrew a controversial August 1, 2002 memo approving brutal interrogation techniques.
James Ho
Attorney Adviser, OLC
September 2001-February 2003
James Ho moved from the Justice Department's civil rights division to the Office of Legal Counsel shortly after Sept. 11. He authored at least one key memo concluding that international treaties don't apply to the prisoners in the War on Terror.
Daniel Levin
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, OLC
August 2004-February 2005
When Levin took the helm of the Office of Legal Counsel in August, 2004, the administration was faced with the recent disclosure of an Aug. 1, 2002 memo that endorsed even the harshest interrogation tactics, so long as they didn't inflict pain tantamount to "organ failure... or even death." He repudiated the earlier memo, and was soon told that he would not be nominated to officially lead the Office of Legal Counsel. He resigned.
Patrick Philbin
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, OLC
September 2001-June 2003
As an Office of Legal Counsel deputy, Philbin authored several of the early memos that built the argument for extra-judicial detention at Guantanamo Bay, but would later back Goldsmith in withdrawing the controversial Aug. 1, 2002 memo approving harsh interrogation techniques that some officials believed verged on torture.
John Yoo
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, OLC
July 2001-May 2003
Yoo came to the Bush administration from UC Berkeley School of Law, where his academic work focused on foreign affairs and the president's war-time powers. Although he was only a junior appointee at the Justice Department, his expertise came in handy after the Sept. 11 attacks. He would go on to author some of the most controversial Office of Legal Counsel findings before departing in May, 2003, after being passed over to lead the OLC.

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