David Kirkpatrick

February 14, 2009

Obama, truth commissions, rendition and transparency

Here is a long, but interesting, roundup of opinion on how the Obama administration is handling the misdeeds, and possible criminal behavior, of the Bush 43 administration, and transparency in the DOJ and counterterrorism policy.

All of this will be points of discussion for a long while.

Bush team members will have a domestic axe over their collective heads until something definitive is worked out by the Obama administration regarding war crimes that were committed. These same officials will always have an international axe dangling loosely. I’m guessing quite a few can’t travel to a number of European countries lest they get nabbed and hauled to the Hague for trial.

Transparency, the Department of Justice and counterterrorism policy will always be a politcal football regardless which party is in power and setting policy.

If these subjects interest you it’s worth the time to hit this link and read Tobin Harshaw’s extensive roundup of bloggy goodness. Lots of opinions and good arguments, and if you’re really into the topics there are links galore to even more of the same.

Here’s Harshaw’s lede:

While President Obama has made it pretty clear he’d like to move on, the idea of prosecuting members of the Bush administration for its counterterrorism programs and other alleged misdeeds refuses to die. Rep. John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, has been making noises about investigations and criminal charges for a while and now Patrick Leahy, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for a “truth commission” — a “a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind” with a “straightforward mission … to find the truth.”

Well, before we set out in search of axeless Washingtonians, a rare breed indeed, let’s discuss all the options. Leahy’s idea is probably along the lines of what Jack Balkin of Yale Law School recommended in a Times Op-Ed article last month: “create presidential commissions and Congressional oversight hearings on various subjects: detention and interrogation practices, extraordinary rendition, reform of military commissions and reform of surveillance practices. These different commissions have different objects and functions; a single truth commission could not begin to address them all.”

For some on the left, this is soft stuff. Sharing the page with Balkin, Dahlia Lithwick wrote that “Some commentators have suggested that any such truth commission should promise immunity or a pardon in exchange for truthful testimony, but I believe that if it becomes clear that laws were broken, or that war crimes were committed, a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate further.”

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