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Truth Commission Watch

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."

By Dan Froomkin  |  February 20, 2009; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  Looking Backward  
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Next: Here Comes Climate Change


So the alternative to a 'truth' commission is to just turn the page??? WHAT??? I thought the alternative was to have the DOJ investigate allegations of torture, indict if there is evidence, and prosecute once an indictment was secured. Oh, sorry, I forgot, since Republicans do not ascribe to the rule of law, we have to ignore our system of law and courts to set up a special 'commission' to unearth their 'misconduct'. It is truly sickening to see this country sink so low as to substitute a 'commission' for THE LAW OF THE LAND. Can I get one of these commissions to give me immunity if I confess to speeding? How about if I confess to the torture and murder of hundreds of human beings? Yeah, I thought not. One set of laws for us and a 'special' set for those in power. I believe that is called TYRANNY. Leahy should be ashamed of himself. Oh, sorry, forgot, politicians HAVE NO SHAME.

Posted by: davidbn27 | February 20, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting to see how the entire sphere of this debate has shifted from prosecuting Bush to having a "truth commission." Now, it will seem like a victory to have some ineffectual commission set up to whitewash the past 8 years worth of abuses against the Constitution -- just as the 9/11 Commission did.

That is how Government operates most effectively -- they shape the debate. Instead of discussing ALL the options (Special Investigator; All-Out Prosecution; DOJ Probe; Congressional Investigation; Blue-Ribbon Panels; etc.) Leahy & Conyers threw out passive, impotent and utterly useless suggestions to "frame" the debate -- making it easier for the GOP and Obama to swallow... nevermind the outrage of a majority of the public.

With the economic crisis in full-swing, the Electorate is more concerned about literally surviving than undertaking a letter writing campaign to their elected officials. This very real diversion will provide cover to Congress for once again abdicating their responsibilities to actually be a co-equal branch of Government with power & responsibility to uphold the Constitution.

Posted by: winoohno | February 20, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Professor Jonathan Turley also stated that only third world countries have used "Truth Commissions" because they had no history on the rule of law, had a corrupt government and no way to enforce current laws without wiping the slate clean. I guess that pretty much describes us.

Posted by: Bushy | February 20, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

@winoohno: "Leahy & Conyers threw out passive, impotent and utterly useless suggestions to "frame" the debate"

It's also noteworthy that Democrats demonstrate they are just as good as Republicans at framing issues to steer debate... except Democrats wield their talents against their own constituents rather than Republicans. Makes it mighty difficult to be a progressive in this day and age.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | February 20, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

We don't need a truth commision.

We need criminal convictions.

Posted by: BigTimePatriot | February 20, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama's failure to hold BushCo accountable for their many war crimes means that he is nothing but a BushCo accomplice.

Obama is a huge disappointment. I thought he had some honor, but I gave him too much credit.

Posted by: solsticebelle | February 20, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Sure is nice that idiots like BigTunaTim can voice their opinions w/o serious repercussions as would occur in countries like China, Russia, etc. It's a shame that we cannot go after real criminals like Cheney here in the good ole USA. Our freedoms are a double-edged sword.

Posted by: DMDunkle | February 20, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The inhabitants of Beltwaystan don't remember anymore how to play by the rules, if indeed they ever knew. Since the theory by which they rule over the rest of us is that rules matter, they are forever making up new rules as they go along. It's their shtick.

The U.S. Constitution says nothing about "truth commissions." Setting up a "truth commission" is just the sort of arrogation of powers that the Consititution is intended to protect us from.

You want to find out the truth? You want to close the matter and move on? It's Grand Jury time.

Posted by: fzdybel | February 20, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Let's have my favorite kind of truth commission - a trial by jury. If it's good enough for O.J., it oughtta be good enough for W. and Dick! Imagine the ratings, they'd be through the roof. Oh,wait, that last storm tore my roof off and I lost both my jobs so I'm living in the basement. At least I can get the real important news without cable or internet, right here in the good old Washington Post. I guess we don't have to ask if Leonard Downey Jr. is a newsman first and a businessman second, now, do we?

Posted by: russgeer | February 20, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

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