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Posted by on Feb 22, 2010 in Breaking News, Politics, Society, War | 4 comments

The Fourth, Unknown, Author of the Torture Memos

Unknown until now, that is. In an important exclusive, Zachary Roth of TPMMuckraker reports that, in addition to John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Patrick Philbin (the named contributors to the Torture Memos), there was a fourth. Her name was redacted throughout the just-released report by the Office of Professional Responsibility — except for one mention, which was missed:

But in what appears to be an oversight in the redaction process, a footnote identifies her as Jennifer Koester. …

Koester, who was two years out of law school and around 28 years old at the time, was clearly a junior level attorney in the process. She appears to have had no authority to approve the final versions of the memos that went out from the department, and was tasked with working with Yoo on them in part because having just joined OLC, she “had some time available,” according to the report. But she did take the lead in developing the first drafts of the memos, and briefed the White House on their contents. And it’s perhaps surprising — given the intense level of scrutiny that Yoo has rightly received for his role in producing the memos — that Koester has until now remained almost entirely under the radar.
The decision to give the assignment to Koester — now a partner at the powerhouse DC law firm Kirkland and Ellis, and known as Jennifer Hardy — doesn’t appear to have been based on her familiarity with the subject matter. According to the report, soon after Yoo was asked by the CIA to prepare a memo on interrogation techniques, he discussed with Bybee and Philbin who else at OLC should work with him on the project. “According to Yoo,” writes OPR, “they agreed that REDACTED was the best choice, probably because she had recently joined OLC and therefore had some time available” (p. 39).
The final OPR report appears not to draw any conclusions about Koester’s performance. But a draft version of the report, released last week along with the final report, finds that “Koester, because of relative inexperience and subordinate position, did not commit misconduct,” but that “she appears to bear initial responsibility for a number of significant errors of scholarship and judgment (p. 188).”

Those errors don’t appear to have impeded Koester’s career. She left the Justice Deprtment in 2003 to work in the general counsel’s office at the Defense Department, then won a coveted Supreme Court clerkship, working for Clarence Thomas, and did a stint at the Department of Homeland Security, before joining Kirkland.

The rest is here, and it’s a must-read.

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  • ProfElwood

    This, I admit, is extremely interesting, both for the inexperience of the drafter, and for attempt to hide her identity in the name of security.

  • tidbits

    Hmmm. There’s no need to redact her name, and inexperience or lack of familiarity with the subject is not an excuse in a professional misconduct investigtion. It may be considered in level of discipline, but not in the conduct itself. Really, why redact her name? Something is going on behind the scenes here. Speculation only: was she quietly cooperating with the investigation in exchange for anonymity? Given her meteoric rise in D.C. legal circles, hmmm again.

    • kathykattenburg

      I think the meteoric rise took place while Bush was still president. So I don’t think that could have been quid pro quo for cooperating with the OPR investigators. The impression I got from Zach’s article was that it might have been quid pro quo for helping to write the torture memos.

  • shannonlee

    I am sure her rise had everything to do with her involvement in writing torture memos. She went from Yoo, to the DoD, then Thomas, and finally an international law firm that looks like a bad guy in a hollywood movie.

    She went from crazy to crazier.

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