Congress Holds Truth Commission Hearing on Bush Terror War Policies

Sen. Patrick Leahy and the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate the Bush Adminisration's policies on surveillance, detention, etc.

Marcy at Empty Wheel is live-blogging. Meteor Blades at Daily Kos has a good roundup. Think Progress discusses the idea of blanket immunity to Bush officials. An AP report is here.

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    I'd love to hear what you (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Joelarama on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 04:26:05 PM EST
    think of the merits of a Commission.

    To me, it seems a Commission would amount to an admission that, as political matter, the United States will never be able to live up to its obligations under international treaties (with the force of domestic law) to prosecute war crimes domestically.

    If that is true -- we will not have the stomach to pursue war crimes -- it's quite an admission.  And would a truth commission be better than nothing?

    In any event, it seems to me based on my rudimentary knowledge of the treaties in question, if the U.S. grants immunity, jurisdiction might immediately lie with international bodies.

    Hearings about commissions? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by ricosuave on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:38:03 PM EST
    We don't need a truth commission, and we certainly don't need a hearing to discuss a truth commission.  The Senate can simply hold hearings and investigate the matter they are interested in.

    Just talking about a "truth commission" is an admission by the Senate that they lack the cojones to do their own job.  Subpeona people.  Ask them questions.  Hold them in contempt when they don't show up or don't answer.  This kind of oversight is not just in their power, it is their responsibility and they are trying to shirk it.

    Magnificent post on capital topic (none / 0) (#2)
    by Sumner on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 06:43:39 PM EST
    I watched the hearing. Thanks for the link. This is long overdue. I was most struck by the scale and magnitude of what lies percolating just under the surface of this giant cauldron just waiting to boil.

    I look forward to the next installment of Senator Leahy's hearings and it was the best time i have spent in a long long time, as I watched the beginnings of historical and epic inquiry into some of the darkest chapters of our nation's recent history.

    I Caught a Portion of The Hearing... (none / 0) (#3)
    by santarita on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 06:57:19 PM EST
    I liked the exchange between Prof. Rivkin and Sen. Whitehouse.  It's encouraging to see someone as articulate and deft as Whitehouse take on some of the sophistical talking points from the VRWC.  

    I got the impression that the Commission would have limited immunity authorities but would have to coordinate with any grant with the DOJ.  

    9/11 Widows: An Open Letter to Senator Leahy (none / 0) (#5)
    by fly on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:38:38 PM EST
    From 9/11 Widows: An Open Letter to Senator Patrick Leahy
    Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 03/04/2009 - 12:50pm. Alerts

    Dear Senator Leahy,

    We felt compelled to write to you regarding your recent call for the formation of a "Truth Commission." According to your press comments, this Commission is supposed to look at the following:

    • the politicization of prosecution in the Justice Department
    • the wiretapping of U.S. citizens
    • the flawed intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq
    • the use of torture at Guantanamo and so-called black sites abroad

    These are serious allegations of criminal activity by certain members of the Bush Administration. While we applaud your initiative in looking into these matters, we feel this approach is wrong.

    As the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, you already have the responsibility and legal authority to investigate matters relating to federal criminal law without having to form a special commission. You are also bound by your oath of office to support and uphold the Constitution by ensuring that those who govern also abide by the rule of law.

    Furthermore, a "Truth Commission" will not fix the real problems that our country faces, nor will it guarantee that we will get to the truth. The 9/11 Commission, which you want to model your commission after, is a perfect example of that flawed process.

    The 9/11 Commission was mandated to follow the facts surrounding the events of September 11, 2001 to wherever they might lead and make national security recommendations based upon those facts. Sadly, prior to even beginning their investigation, like you, the 9/11 Commissioners agreed amongst themselves that their role was to fact find, not fault find.

    This decision resulted in individuals not being held accountable for their specific failures. These people were shown to be incompetent in the 9/11 Commission's Final Report but were left in their positions, or worse, promoted. No one should be allowed to make this compromise on behalf of the American people. How can any agency be deemed fixed or reformed if the people working there are inept? How can anyone feel safer?

    At the 9/11 Commission hearings, little actual evidence was ever produced. Many individuals were not sworn in, critical witnesses were either not called to testify or were permitted to dictate the parameters of their own questioning, pertinent questions were omitted and there was little follow-up. Whistleblower testimony was suppressed or avoided all together. The National Security Agency, an intelligence agency that is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and foreign intelligence, was barely investigated at all.

    With the narrative of the 9/11 Commission's final report predetermined and with the preexisting intention to never hold anyone accountable in place, the 9/11 Commission was doomed to fail as a real investigation. The end result of the 9/11 Commission's work was that some of the recommendations that they produced were in fact, based on distortions and omissions. Since their mandate of a complete accounting was ignored, the recommendations were incomplete at best.

    There was clearly no desire on the part of Congress to force the Commission to meet its legislative mandate. Accordingly, there were no repercussions for the fact that the investigation and its recommendations were incomplete. It could be surmised that holding no one accountable was more important than uncovering and disclosing the truth. This could compromise the future safety of American citizens. Why then would you want to model another Commission after it? Why would you want another Commission at all?

    Senator Leahy, in light of the fact that the 9/11 Commission's worst offense was not fully investigating the September 11th attacks, completing that investigation should also be included on your list of matters to be examined.

    America's founding fathers, prescient in their fears of unrestrained power, created three separate but equal branches of government. They had hoped to maintain and enforce the limits of the Executive Branch.

    The Bush Administration was allowed to circumvent too many Constitutional restrictions effectively undermining America's system of justice, our nation's integrity and commitment to the rule of law. The Bush Administration's seizing of power proves the adage that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    The days of no fault government must end; and where there is clear criminal activity, people must be prosecuted. The law must be upheld without exception before we can be assured of the safety of the nation. These duties cannot be ignored for the sake of expediency.

    Senator Leahy, our nation needs you to investigate and, if warranted, refer the cases for criminal prosecution in transparent trials. We do not need another meaningless commission resulting in no accountability at the taxpayers' expense. Show all Americans that you have the courage to uphold the law, bring accountability to those who abuse their positions of power and prevent such abuses from happening again.

    The November 2008 elections proved that Americans want the rule of law restored for those in Washington who are elected to represent us. You, Senator Leahy, are in the position to lead the way and work toward the change we were promised.


    September 11th Advocates
    Patty Casazza
    Monica Gabrielle
    Mindy Kleinberg
    Lorie Van Auken