Reconciling Senator Leahy's Independent Commission Proposal

(Originally posted at Huffington Post.)

Yesterday Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, floated the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate Bush administration policies — and perhaps even pre-Bush policies — on warrantless wiretapping and the politicization of the Justice Department among many others. During a speech at the 2009 Marker H. Bernstein Symposium on Governmental Reform at Georgetown University, Senator Leahy gave a vague outline of what he was after — an independent commission, hopefully with subpoena power, that could get to the bottom of, well, where we've gone wrong.

The ACLU commends Chairman Leahy's resolve and we agree that disclosure of past practices is the only way to move forward. But such a commission would not absolve Congress of its responsibility to do thorough oversight. Truthfully, regardless of the role of any outside group Congress must step up and once again make itself an equal branch of government and defend the rights of its constituents.

Think back to the Church Committee. It accomplished a great deal with a short timeline and limited resources. A full congressional investigation is definitely needed and it's vital that the precedent set by the Church Committee not be forgotten.

By truly understanding where our government has faltered, we will ensure that our country does not fall into those errors again. The idea of truth in government may seem naïve — especially after President Bush's legacy of secrecy — but it's an idea we should never lose sight of and should never stop striving for.

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Jessica Schar

Criminal investigation and prosecution where probably cause is found-that's what's necessary, not just a "Truth Commission."

The Church Commission exposed the illegal excesses of the Nixon Admiistration. That did NOT prevent the GWB administration from committing far worse crimes.

The FBI arrested and interned Japanese long-time legal resident alien men on specious ground soon after December 7, 1941. In many cases, their families did not learn their whereabouts for months. Many years later, reparations were paid and apologies were given. And, I, a child when the injustices of interment and "relocation" occurred on to west coast of California, breathed a sigh of relief, though I knew that the infamous Korematsu case still held U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Then, immediately after 9/11/2001, many resident alien Arabs and Muslims were arrested, refused lawyers and contact with their families.

It takes more than revelation of the truth to stop the renditions, torture and long term imprisonment without access to lawyers or courts from happening again.

If there is no investigation and no prosecution (based on probably cause), it will happen again. Perhaps not in my lifetime because I'm 73 years old, but it will happen again.

Sincerely, Jessica Schar


Innocent, law-abiding Americans are being targeted by some sort of extra-judicial process on U.S. soil (and in other countries, as well, I'm told). These operations are below the radar of most, and will continue unabated unless someone takes the victims seriously. When complaints are made, the victims are labeled "mentally ill." (A diagnosis of "sluggish paranoia" was given to political dissidents in the Soviet Union -- many were locked up in mental institutions for their political views.)

Whatever is going is Machiavellian, cruel and sadistic. It must be stopped. I've been told that these operations have been going on for decades and that once someone is targeted, the sentence is "life", so to speak. I've also heard that past presidents have not been able to reign in those who run these operations.

Truth and reconciliation hearings may help to expose these practices. They may be the last and best hope for those who have been unjustly targeted.

donald orr

It seems that the current president is content to sweep the Bush dirt under the carpet and pretend it is gone. So much for the promised change. At least change in the manner that some people perceived. This president will be no different than any other. The abuses will continue and possibly get worse. Only a vigilant press [sic] and a demanding public can hope to affect change. I can only hope that as people become more disenchanted and disillusioned with the government that they peel back the onion of the Democratic-Republican government that they hold so dearly and see what it really is. A scam.

Hawaiian style

Unfortunately Barak has joined the most exclusive club in the world. None of the members wants his successor prowling around in the actions of his administration. Obama knows he will be no different. Thus no investigation push by Our President.

However, the real fault lies with Congress who is charged to be a co-equal branch of the Government. During the 8 years of Bush the only oversight I heard of was the Senate's Committee and they agreed to keep confidential anything that the Administration told them!

If Congress doesn't step up and do its job, we are doomed to a dictatorship in reality and a democracy in publicity.

I hope the Courts can help, but I'm afraid they won't.

Hawaiian style

When your website says My comment is awaiting moderation, does that mean censorship? Political correctness? Approval by someone that agrees with me?

What? This is the only computer site that says this. Have the courage of your 1st Amendment conviction.


Correction to earlier comment: A diagnosis of “sluggish schizophrenia” was given to political dissidents in the Soviet Union — many were locked up in mental institutions for their political views.

Today, when individuals file police reports regarding the surreptitious home entries, theft and vandalism that are a part of "organized stalking", those filing the reports are investigated, shamed, discredited and, when the reports continue? The police label the individuals as "paranoid schizophrenics", reminiscent of what took place in the Soviet Union. It's shameful and outrageous.

A courageous man in Verona, NJ recently began distributing fliers about "organized stalking." The man no longer lives in Verona, and the police could not find any law on the books that would allow them to arrest him. In typical fashion, they are continuing to question him, rather than investigating his claims. They are stopping short of calling him mentally ill. Rather they say that the man is "disturbed about something" and are asking anyone who receives a flier to call them.

"Organized stalking" is America's very dirty, and not so little, secret. I implore the ACLU to help.

Restore the Rul...

In one of the above comments, "sluggish paranoia" should read "sluggish schizophrenia. (It was used to institutionalize political activists and dissidents in the Soviet Union.)

I attempted to post something earlier and saw the standard ACLU's message that the message would be reviewed (or something to that effect.

It still hasn't posted. I will review my copy of the message and recheck your policies for comments. (Perhaps it will appear later.)

Barbara b

Since your organization thinks that it is necessary to release (torture photos)taken of our troups, than you become responsible for any consequences of your actions in the safety of our troups. war is HELL so do not judge unless you have walked in their shoes. They are more responsible for our freedom than you are. If you are proud this action, then post on your websight the names of your members responsible and the judges that concur and take the credit or blame.


we have indepent commission it's called the doj is already conducting a full investigation and will conclude nothing was illegal all the photos should be classified and other cia documents should also be classified nd never be realesed specially to the aclu

Samdra Sandoski

torture exists in Canada today. The use of gps/radio and other sec system harassment is everywhere. The cia is presumably responsable for torture with projekt monark and mengele style torture. 1000s of people have been reported informally to have been killed.

I am opposed to so called anti terrorism torture.


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