In today's Washington Post, Saul Jay Singer, the senior legal ethics counsel for the D.C. Bar has a letter to the editor arguing that if a client instructs his lawyer,
I want to perform a certain act; find me a legal way to do it,
the lawyer's professional duty is to find a good-faith basis in the law to meet the client's needs while carefully advising the client of the risks of pursuing such a course of action. http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
I guess this torture apologia shouldn't be surprising coming from the D.C. Bar, which has held me under investigation for more than 5 years now for advising that a U.S. citizen should be afforded his rights, and disclosing to the press when this did not happen.
But Mr. Singer and other "legal experts" quoted by the MSM in support of the torture lawyers evading bar discipline are flat-out wrong.
On Wednesday, Senators Whitehouse and Durbin are holding a hearing on "What Went Wrong: Torture and the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration" at 10:00am. I will be submitting written testimony about why assertions like that in the next paragraph are wrong.
Waterboarding is a perfect example. A lawyer may personally believe that such a practice constitutes torture, but there is, at the very least, a good-faith argument to be made that it is not--as evidenced by the fact that even now respected authorities argue that this is not torture. --Saul J. Singer
Just to be clear: Waterboarding is considered to be torture by the vast majority of authorities, including legal experts, politicians (including President Obama and Attorney General Holder), war veterans, CIA intelligence officials, military judges and human rights organizations. Who are the fringe "respected authorities" that are arguing otherwise?
And even though some on the Supreme Court think that international law doesn't count, waterboarding is unequivocally illegal torture under international law.
Mr. Singer cites no ethics rules in support of his broad and dangerous assertion that if a client instructs his lawyer that the client wishes to engage in controversial conduct, the lawyer must find him a way to do it.
Lest lawyers gain an even worse reputation than they already have, as a legal ethicist myself, here is the most applicable rule:
Rule 2.1 "Advisor":
A client is entitled to straightforward advice expressing the lawyer's honest assessment. Legal advice often involves unpleasant facts and alternatives that a client may be disinclined to confront. . .A lawyer should not be deterred from giving candid advice by the prospect that the advice will be unpalatable to the client. Comment [1}.
Advice couched in narrow legal terms may be of little value to a client, especially where practical considerations, such as const or effects on other prople are predominant. Purely technical legal advice, therefore, can sometimes be inadequate. It is proper for a lawyer to refer to relevant moral and ethical considerations in giving advice. Although a lawyer is not a moral advisor as such, moral and ethical considerations impinge upon most legal questions and may decisively infludnece how the law will be applied. Comment 
A client may expressly or impliedly ask the lawyer for purely technical advice . . . When such a request is made by a client inexperienced in legal matters, however, the lawyer's responsibility as advisor may include indicating that more may be involved than strictly legal considerations. Comment .
This is pretty straightforward. And it does not say, as Mr. Singer asserts, that when a client wants to perform a certain act, it's your job to find him a legal way to do it. A lawyer acting in the traditional role as advocate has different legal duties than a lawyer acting as an advisor. The lawyer-as-advocate can spin out any creative, one-sided argument as long as it's not frivolous. The lawyer as advisor must exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice, even when that advice may not be what the client wants to hear.
I feel like I'm shouting into the wilderness (except at Daily Kos), but maybe at some point the MSM will hear voices like mine, rather than servineg as a mouthpiece for endless torture apologias.