Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is getting laudable attention for his call for an independent “truth commission” to investigate civil liberties and human rights abuses committed during the Bush years. But as I mentioned earlier this week, the commission may not be directly legislated by Congress — and one reason is that not every Democrat thinks it’s necessary to do so.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told me that the Obama Justice Department is already positioned to do the type of analysis that such an independent commission would perform, and he warned against investigating the Bush years “in a way that could impose partisan concerns.”
Now Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), a trusted ally of party leaders, is the second Democratic senator to openly question the need for a formal panel to look back on the Bush administration’s potentially illegal misdeeds. As Reed told MSNBC today:
Well, I think we have to seriously investigate allegations of torture. I don’t know if we require a formal new commission to do that. We have the Department of Justice. We have federal attorneys.
But we cannot simply ignore credible allegations. They have to be investigated. I think our political system, and our political system as well as our judicial system, is strong enough to conduct these investigations fairly and then to — to bring those people who might have violated the law to justice.
I don’t think we shouldn’t be afraid of that. But I think that should be in response to specific allegations and specific evidence, and not simply setting up a new commission.