The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is not giving up on the idea of a truth commission that would investigate possible wrongdoing under the Bush administration.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said today that he is planning a hearing for next week on the merits of the idea. In a speech on the Senate floor, Leahy reiterated his argument that such a commission is needed.
“We cannot be afraid to understand what we’ve done if we’re to remain a nation equally vigilant in protecting our national security and our Constitution,” Leahy said.
Leahy first called for the creation of a commission at a speech this month at Georgetown University. He suggested that it could have authority to grant immunity from prosecution for witnesses who testify truthfully and the authority to compel witnesses to appear. Like other proposals, his would draw its membership from people with public stature who are not seen as especially partisan.
Today, he called the idea a “middle ground” between those who favor criminal investigations for those involved in waterboarding and other controversial policies and those who want immunity for officials involved in national security. Leahy said that support is “growing,” despite President Barack Obama’s public resistance to the idea.
In a separate speech, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) echoed Leahy’s call while warning that the country might not be prepared for what such a commission could uncover. “We may have to face the prospect of looking with horror at our own country’s deeds,” he said.
UPDATE (3:29 p.m.): Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told reporters today that he has several concerns about such a commission. He says it could turn into a "fishing expedition" and would likely be very expensive. He also says that Senate Democrats should be able to find whatever information they need from the Justice Department because their party now controls the department.