Truth Commission Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:49 PM ET, 02/20/2009

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy writes for Time about his proposal to appoint a "truth-finding panel" to look into the abuses of the Bush years.

"People would be invited to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of constructing criminal indictments but to assemble the facts. If needed, such a process could involve subpoena powers and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecution in order to get to the whole truth....

"[T]o repair the damage of the past eight years and restore America's reputation and standing in the world, we should not simply turn the page without being able first to read it."

The Constitution Project yesterday released a letter calling on President Obama to appoint a commission to examine Bush's detainee policies. Among the signatories: former FBI director William S. Sessions, retired Major General Antonio M. Taguba, who investigated detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, and former under secretary of state Thomas Pickering.

Daphne Eviatar writes for the Washington Independent that Leahy's proposal has "revealed deep divisions among Democrats, legal experts and human rights advocates. That's because Leahy was suggesting not a prosecution, but an investigatory commission....

"'The only reason to have a commission of this kind is to avoid doing what we're obligated to do under a treaty,' George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley told Keith Olbermann on MSNBC last week. 'It is shameful that we would be calling for this type of commission,' he added. 'We're obligated to investigate. It's not up to President Obama. It's not up to Sen. Leahy.'"

James L. Cavallaro writes in the Christian Science Monitor that, based on his experience with human rights issues in Latin America, a truth commission would serve the nation well: "What...the US can learn from Latin America is this: If we are to control our own destiny, we must reclaim our past. A truth commission, along the lines suggested by Leahy, would be a good means of beginning that process. The alternative – to turn the page without knowing what is on it – could doom us to a haphazard and unpredictable future in which individual consciences and other nations' courts control our destiny."

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