A.L. seconds Hilzoy:

The most important question in my mind is not what kind of punishment the various bad actors deserve, but what steps can be taken to minimize the chances of this ever happening again.

The OLC lawyers played an indispensable role in allowing these illegal torture and surveillance programs to be implemented.

The White House and CIA would not have pressed forward with these initiatives (at least for a sustained period of time) without the blessing of the OLC. So the key to preventing this kind of illegality in the future is to up the stakes for future OLC attorneys, to make them understand that there are potentially significant consequences to intentionally distorting the law. Disbarment would serve that purpose fairly well. If future OLC lawyers know that they might be disgraced and lose their livelihood if they distort the law, they'll be far less likely to do so. And that's the key. As much as I think that some of these attorneys deserve to be prosecuted criminally, there's very little precedent for that kind of prosecution and such cases would be very, very hard to prove. Disbarment, however, is a realistically attainment penalty, and one that would serve as a significant deterrent to future illegality.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.