Picking up on the controversial proposal he made during a Feb. 9 speech at Georgetown University, Sen.Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) today reiterated his call for a “truth commission” on the Senate floor and said the Senate Judiciary Committee would hold a hearing next Wednesday to begin to consider the idea.
Noting both the pressures to leave the past behind on one hand, but also to prosecute Bush officials on the other, Leahy reiterated his call for a “middle ground” that would involve the “formation of a commission of inquiry dedicated to finding out what happened.” This is “not for the purpose of criminal indictments, but to assemble the facts, to know what happened, and to make sure mistakes are not repeated.” He reminded the senators that a recent Gallup poll found that more than 62 percent of Americans polled favored some sort of investigation of criminal activity by the Bush administration.
“I’ve seen what’s happened before with prosecutions,” added Leahy, clearly anticipating some objections from the left. “We don’t find the whole truth, but prosecute those on the way bottom of the chain of command.”
Noting that former Vice President Dick Cheney has continued to defend the Bush administration’s tactics, including torture, Leahy said: “We need an independent inquiry that’s beyond reproach and outside of partisan politics.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), spoke afterward in support of Leahy’s proposal.
Under the previous administration, Whitehouse said, “we saw U.S. attorneys fired for political reasons, the civil rights division run amok, we saw theories that the president can secretly ignore his own executive orders, and saw those office of legal counsel memos approving interrogation techniques long understood and long known to be torture.”
“If we blind ourselves to this history, we deny ourselves these lessons,” he continued. “We cannot set aside our responsibility to take an accounting of where we are, what was done and what must now be repaired.”