Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday urged restraint in the rush to hold officials in President George W. Bush’s administration accountable for the harsh — some say illegal — interrogation methods used against detainees in the war on terror.
Reid told reporters that he does not yet want to create a “Truth Commission.— He said he prefers to wait until the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has a chance to produce a report on Bush-era detainee policies before considering whether an independent commission of inquiry or a special prosecutor is warranted.
“I think that’s really the direction that I’m going to follow closely. I have great confidence in the Intelligence Committee. It’s a bipartisan committee … and they will make a public report. I hope that will come toward the end of this year,— Reid said. “And then, I think it’s appropriate to start talking about what we do with that information. But until we get that information, I think we’d all be better off just relaxing, understanding how difficult this is. … We want justice to be served, but this should not be retribution.—
Feinstein has said her inquiry should be complete in six to eight months.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who has pushed for the public release of an internal probe into the Justice Department lawyers who provided the legal justification for harsh interrogations, agreed with Reid.
“There is a lot of information out there. Some of it has been destroyed — we know that — some of it has been concealed and some of it is just coming to light now, because we have a Senate Intelligence Committee that is aggressively going after this issue,— Durbin said. “They’re looking at classified information as well as those facts that are publicly available. I think it is in our best interest if we are going to do this sensibly, prudently, to wait until Sen. Feinstein completes this investigation.—
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has been pushing for months for a “Commission of Inquiry— that would determine what happened and how. Leahy has said he is open to giving the commission the authority to grant immunity, if that will ensure they get the full story. Other Democrats and civil liberties groups have called for a special prosecutor.
The past week has seen a string of revelations about the Bush administration’s justification for using interrogation methods — such as waterboarding, or simulation drowning — that have historically been considered torture.
Last week, Obama authorized the release of several memos written in Bush’s Justice Department. On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued its newly declassified report on detainee abuse at the hands of the Defense Department and CIA, while the Intelligence panel produced a document showing the timeline of when Congressional officials were briefed on the Bush-era program.
Considerable uncertainty has surrounded who could be prosecuted for either authorizing or participating in the harsh treatment of detainees who were captured in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama has repeatedly asserted that CIA agents and others who took their direction from Bush administration officials should not be in legal jeopardy. After initially ruling it out, Obama this week cracked the door open to prosecutions of the high-level lawyers and political appointees who crafted the policy in the first place.