Justice Probes Waterboarding Authorization

The Justice Department is investigating what role department officials played in authorizing the CIA to conduct waterboarding, according to a letter released today by members of Congress.

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The Justice Department is investigating what role department officials played in authorizing the CIA to conduct waterboarding, according to a letter released today by members of Congress.

The confirmation came in response to a request by Democratic Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island to open an investigation into the subject. In a letter dated February 18, H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, told the senators that such an inquiry was already underway in connection with an investigation into the drafting of the Aug. 1, 2002, interrogation memo by the Office of Legal Counsel to then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales as well as related issues.

"Among other issues, we are examining whether the legal advice contained in those memoranda were consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys," Jarrett wrote. The Office of Professional Responsibility is separate from the Office of Inspector General and looks at whether lawyers in the department meet the ethical standards of the legal profession. Jarrett also indicated that he would release the results to Congress and would consider making portions of it unclassified to provide to the public.

"I am pleased that the Office of Professional Responsibility has undertaken this investigation," Durbin said in a statement. "The American people deserve to know how these decisions were made and who was involved." The response is the latest in a string of congressional questions about waterboarding — a topic that has come up in nearly every recent hearing and almost stymied the confirmation of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

—Emma Schwartz