Bush administration lawyers who wrote "torture" memos have been cleared of allegations of professional misconduct after a Justice Department internal investigation, which recommends no legal consequences for their actions.
The report by the Justice Department concludes the high-ranking lawyers who developed controversial legal guidance on waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques may have exercised poor judgment, but not professional misconduct.
When CNN puts "torture" in quotation marks, that means something. The practical import of the matter is that John Yoo and Jay Bybee are pretty much in the clear now.
It's pretty easy to understand why career Justice officials quietly killed the efforts to go after Yoo and Bybee. If these Bush-era lawyers were prosecuted for providing legal advice by the Obama administration, the Obama-era lawyers would face the potential of similar action when the next administration comes to town. And if that happened, you'd have lawyers ducking tough calls every time. I don't see how that would benefit anyone. And if you can't imagine that the Obama-era Justice Department might not have some issue that a future administration might believe merits scrutiny, think again.
We struggle with this sort of thing all the time, because bright lines aren't always as bright as we imagine. I am aware that many people feel that the Bush administration engaged in torture, a problem that the Obama administration seems to be avoiding through outsourcing. We try, we always try, to be on the side of the angels, but we are sinners and we fall short. And when sinners try to be avenging angels, it usually doesn't work out so well.