A government watchdog organization has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the missing emails of two former high-ranking officials involved in writing several 2002 memos authorizing torture.
Last week, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) publicly released its July 2009 report concluding that the actions of John Yoo and Patrick Philbin did not violate any of their ethical obligations as lawyers. However, the report admits that the investigation was "hampered by the loss of Yoo's and Philbin's e-mail records" from July 2002 to August 5, 2002 -- the time period in which the torture memos were created.
According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), the destruction of emails from such high-ranking officials related to critically important matters "clearly violates the agency's obligations under the Federal Records Act (FRA)," which requires agencies to preserve their records and safeguard against their removal or loss. Further, CREW says, the knowing failure to preserve and restore these email records may be subject to criminal sanctions, especially if the destruction was meant to impede the torture memo investigation.
The White House recently agreed to restore some of the 20,000 e-mails the Bush Administration lost or destroyed during the three years following the 9/11 attacks.
"Given the disappearance of millions of Bush White House emails, we shouldn't be surprised that crucial emails also disappeared from the Bush Justice Department," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated. "The question now is what is the Attorney General going to do about it? Even if Mr. Yoo and Mr. Philbin did not violate their professional obligations by writing the torture memos, they -- or others seeking to hide the truth -- may have broken the law by deleting their emails."