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Leahy endorses ‘truth commission’ to investigate Bush DOJ abuses.

By Amanda Terkel on February 9, 2009 at 1:47 pm

"Leahy endorses ‘truth commission’ to investigate Bush DOJ abuses."

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610x.jpg Today in a speech at Georgetown University, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said that he — like other congressional Democrats, such Rep. John Conyers (MI) and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Carl Levin (MI) — supports the idea of a “truth commission” to investigate abuses at the Department of Justice:

One path to that goal would be a reconciliation process, a truth commission. We could develop and authorize a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded without any ax to grind. Their straightforward mission would be to find the truth. People would be told to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of conducting criminal indictments but to assemble the facts.

Indeed, such a process could involve subpoena powers and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecutions for anything accept perjury in order to get to the full truth.

Leahy later added, “Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened. And sometimes is the best way to move forward is to find out the truth, find out what happened. And we do that to make sure it never happens again.”

Transcript:

Many Americans feel we need to get to the bottom of what went wrong. I agree. We need to be able to read the page before we turn the page. We’ll work with the Obama administration to fix those parts of our government that went off course. The office of legal counsel to the Justice Department is one of those institutions that was highjacked. It must be restored. There has to be review and revision of the office’s legal work of the past eight years. So much of that work was kept secret.

Now, we have the — what is the best course for bringing a reckoning for the actions of the past eight years on everything from torture to illegal wiretapping? There are some who resist any effort to investigate the misdeeds of the recent past. 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 their votes; a commitment that he would not prosecute for anything that happened on President Bush’s watch.

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. That is not the example we should give in a country that believes in the rule of law and believes no one is above the law.

There are others who say the (inaudible) takes all of the next eight years or 15 or 20 years and divide this country and distract from the necessary priority of fixing the economy, we must prosecute past administration officials that lay down a marker.

And, of course, the courts are already considering, congressional subpoenas have been issued, and claims of privilege and legal immunities. And they will be, perhaps, for years.

I think there is another option. And I want to use this lecture as a chance to lay out that other option. You could probably call it a middle ground but a middle ground to find the truth. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and why. And the reason we do that is so that it will never happen again.

One path to that goal would be a reconciliation process, a truth commission. We could develop and authorize a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded without any ax to grind. Their straightforward mission would be to find the truth. People would be told to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of conducting criminal indictments but to assemble the facts.

Indeed, such a process could involve subpoena powers and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecutions for anything accept perjury in order to get to the full truth. Congress has already granted some immunity, over my objection, to those that facilitated warrantless wiretaps and those who conducted cruel interrogations.

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