The internal Justice Department probe of UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo was stymied by the loss of his e-mails, which were purportedly deleted. And the inability of investigators from the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to retrieve Yoo’s e-mails raises doubts as to the thoroughness of the inquiry and as to whether high-ranking officials derailed it. In fact, it’s hard to believe that the Justice Department itself was unable to recover e-mails from its own computers, because it would raise serious concerns about its ability to conduct cyber investigations at all.
Yoo’s lost e-mails also were potentially pivotal because they may have shed light on his state of mind when he wrote the infamous torture memos in 2002 and 2003. The Justice Department ultimately decided not to recommend disbarment proceedings against him because a high-ranking official concluded that Yoo’s views about unlimited presidential power in wartime were so extreme that he could not have known what he did was wrong.
Yoo’s e-mails, however, might have revealed a different conclusion. That is, they may have answered the question as to whether Yoo knew full well that his decision to authorize torture and wireless wiretaps while working for the Bush administration was illegal and that there was no basis in law to support his deeply flawed opinions.