Published: April 28, 2009
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) plans to proceed with a special commission to investigate alleged Bush administration abuses of power, despite lacking President Barack Obama’s support, according to a report Tuesday.
Sen. Leahy called for a “Truth Commission” in February to probe Bush administration policies on torture, interrogation and surveillance and to — as he puts it — “get to the bottom of what went wrong.” Such an idea would be modeled around truth commissions established in South Africa and Chile, which offered immunity to officials who committed abuses in exchange for the truth.
“Many Americans feel we need to get to the bottom of what went wrong,” Leahy said when announcing his idea in February. “I agree. We need to be able to read the page before we turn the page.”
President Obama, meanwhile, has expressed disinterest in investigating the activities of his predecessor, saying it’s time for the country to move on. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), says he doesn’t want the commission to begin until an inquiry headed by Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) examines the Bush administration’s legal defenses of torture techniques.
But Leahy plans to proceed despite lacking the approval of party leaders, sources familiar with the proposal told Politico’s John Bresnahan Tuesday.
“Leahy plans to move ahead with his proposal anyway,” Bresnahan writes. “While he has not found a GOP co-sponsor for legislation creating a truth commission, Leahy is expected to begin circulating a draft soon.”
In a statement, Leahy said his commission will ultimately jibe with the President’s wishes.
“When I first proposed establishing a nonpartisan commission of inquiry in February, I thought then, as I do now, that it was the best approach to conducting a thorough review of national security policies on detention, interrogation and rendition since Sept. 11,” Leahy said in a statement to Bresnahan. “Whether such a comprehensive review happens immediately or in the weeks and months ahead, the evidence that our country committed torture demands a review of the process by which these flawed policies were developed and implemented. President Obama was correct when he said that any review should be done outside of politics. A nonpartisan commission will accomplish just that.”
Speaking in February, Leahy applauded Obama Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision not to rule out prosecutions during his confirmation hearing.
“There are some who resist any effort to investigate the misdeeds of the recent past,” he said. “Indeed, during the nomination hearing of Eric Holder, some of my fellow Senators on the other side of the aisle tried to extract a devil’s bargain from him in exchange for the votes — a commitment that he would not make… That is a pledge no prosecutor should give and Eric Holder did not give it. But because he did not it accounts for some of the votes against him.”
Some liberals have critiqued the proposal, asserting that Bush officials shouldn’t be granted immunity from prosecution even if they’re forthcoming in a congressional investigation. Conservatives have attacked the proposed commission as a political