Proposing the creation of a “truth commission” to examine the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush-Cheney administration, Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy declared Monday that, “The past can be prologue unless we set things right.”
“As to the best course of action for bringing a reckoning for the actions of the past eight years, there has been heated disagreement,” the Vermont Democrat explained in a lecture delivered at Georgetown University under the title: “Restoring Trust in the Justice System: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Agenda In The 111th Congress.”
Outlining differences of opinion on the issue, Leahy said:
There are some who resist any effort to investigate the misdeeds of the recent past. Indeed, some Republican Senators tried to extract a devil’s bargain from the Attorney General nominee 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, but because he did not, it accounts for many of the partisan votes against him.
There are others who say that, even if it takes all of the next eight years, divides this country, and distracts from the necessary priority of fixing the economy, we must prosecute Bush administration officials to lay down a marker. Of course, the courts are already considering congressional subpoenas that have been issued and claims of privilege and legal immunities – and they will be for some time.
There is another option that we might also consider, a middle ground. A middle ground to find the truth. We need to get to the bottom of what happened — and why — so we make sure it never happens again.
To that end, Leahy continued:
One path to that goal would be a reconciliation process and truth commission. We could develop and authorize a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind. Their straightforward mission would be to find the truth. 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 prosecutions in order to get to the whole truth. Congress has already granted immunity, over my objection, to those who facilitated warrantless wiretaps and those who conducted cruel interrogations. It would be far better to use that authority to learn the truth.