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Senate Chairman says he'd investigate Democrats who backed Bush policies
John Byrne
Published: Monday February 23, 2009


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In a little noticed one-line remark on Sunday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) endorsed the investigation of Democrats who approved of President George W. Bush's policies as president that he aims to review as part of a "truth commission."

The veteran Democrat has floated the idea of a "truth commission" to probe and put to rest alleged Bush Administration constitutional abuses, in areas such as wiretapping and harsh interrogation. Those who participated would likely be granted immunity from prosecution so long as their testimony is truthful, mirroring similar venues of public catharsis as were practiced in South Africa and Chile in previous decades.

Speaking to the New York Times' Scott Shane, "Mr. Leahy said he has learned that the temptation to abuse powers in a crisis is bipartisan and the commissionís review should include the role of Democrats in Congress in approving the Bush policies. The work should be done in one year, he added, to avert accusations that it was being dragged out for political gain."

Leahy's commission has attracted unusual followers. While receiving a tepid response from President Barack Obama -- who said he was ďmore interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwardsĒ -- former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he would cooperate if called to speak.

ďMy view has always been to be as cooperative as possible,Ē Gonzales told the Washington Independent, an alternative news site. ďAnd thatís what Iíve been with respect to everything. As far as Iím concerned Iíve got nothing to hide and Iíll cooperate. Every time Iíve been asked to cooperate, Iíve cooperated. In terms of what happens in the future, Iím not going to comment on that, but that is what Iíve done in the past.Ē

The lawyer for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Robert Luskin, meanwhile, told Raw Story he had no comment about the commission concept earlier this month.

Leahy's push toward investigating Bush's tenure may have a formidable opponent, however, in his own party.

On Saturday, a report surfaced that President Obama's administration was supporting a Bush administration bid to dismiss a lawsuit aiming to restore millions of White House emails the Bush administration said had been lost.

"The new administration seems no more eager than the last" to deal with the issue, Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told AP.

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, noted that Obama called for greater transparency in government on his first full day in office.

But Obama has seemed lukewarm to probes that would bring White House documents into the light of day. Reports indicate that the Obama White House and representatives of President George W. Bush are negotiating on the terms of testimony from Rove to Congress, and in each statement by Obama's office, the language has been careful to indicate that the administration is carefully considering executive privilege claims.

On Friday, the administration also supported the Bush administration's legal position on detainees held at the US airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan, saying they shouldn't be given access to US courts to contest their detention.

Obama has aggressively sought to distance himself from President Bush's policies in other ways -- he announced the closing of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay and said the US would not allow the CIA to operate "black sites" abroad. He hasn't, however, given a clear read on his position on the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program and the practice of "renditioning" terror suspects on CIA jets.

Leahy has not yet formally introduced a bill that would create a commission.


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