[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile] Monday called for a South Africa-style truth commission [transcript] to investigate controversial actions by the George W. Bush administration, including justifications for the Iraq war, the treatment of military detainees, and the warrantless wiretapping [JURIST news archives] program. Speaking at Georgetown University, Leahy said there was a need to find balance between exposing Bush administration mistakes in order to avoid repeating them, and the desire to move forward rather than cast blame. Leahy suggested that a truth commission could accomplish that goal and that:
[Lawmakers] 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.
When asked about Leahy's proposal, President Barack Obama [official profile] said during a press conference [transcript] late Monday that he had not yet reviewed the plan, but added: "My view is… that nobody's above the law and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen. But generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards."
In January, members of the House Judiciary Committee also called for an investigation into the actions of Bush administration officials, and Obama has said that he would not rule out such an investigation [JURIST reports]. The Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] has alleged [report] that top Bush officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive], “bore major responsibility” for abuses committed by U.S. interrogators in military detention centers.