Senate Hears Testimony On Proposed Truth Commission

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

Senate Hears Testimony On Proposed Truth Commission

Committee Would Investigate Bush Administration’s Abuse of Power

WASHINGTON - A
key Senate committee met today to hear testimony from constitutional
experts and legal scholars to determine the focus and scope of a
proposed “truth commission” to investigate the national security and
executive power policies of the Bush administration. Senate Judiciary
Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) initiated the hearing after announcing
last month that he sought to form the commission.

The
American Civil Liberties Union is urging the establishment of a Select
Committee that will work in conjunction with Senator Leahy’s
commission, believing that the combination of both committees would be
an effective format for congressional review of Bush administration
policies. The Select Committee would have the ability to allocate the
necessary time and resources outside of the day-to-day demands of the
standing committee structure. It would also bring together members from
the relevant committees with jurisdiction over the relevant issues to
share their expertise concerning the programs under review.

“Americans’
faith in government has been deeply shaken,” said Caroline Fredrickson,
Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “While a truth
commission is a valid and admirable suggestion, Congress must go
further. Congress’ complacent approach to oversight has done our
country irreparable harm and legitimized illegal and counter-productive
intelligence programs. It’s time for Congress to step up in a very real
way and assert its role of oversight.”

The
ACLU believes that the legendary Church Committee, formed by Congress
to investigate the egregious abuses of executive power of the 1970s, is
a good model for a Select Committee to investigate Bush administration
policies. In nine months, the Church Committee interviewed 800
individuals and conducted 250 executive and 21 public hearings. Its
report had far reaching impact and resulted in the creation of the
permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the passage of the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, among other reforms. The ACLU
believes that a new Select Committee could have similar results,
ensuring that future administrations would follow the law and respect
individual rights, regardless of the party in power. The
ACLU is also encouraging the Department of Justice to appoint a special
prosecutor to conduct its own investigation and, if warranted by the
facts, to bring any criminal charges.

“The work of Frank Church and ten other Senators should not be lost on the 111th
Congress,” said Fredrickson. “For eight years, our system of checks and
balances has been woefully unbalanced in favor of the executive branch.
The Truth Commission is a beginning for Congress to reassert its power,
but it must go further. A Select Committee would pave the way for the
reform our government so desperately needs.”

To read the ACLU’s statement for the record, go to: http://www.aclu.org/natsec/gen/38913leg20090304.html

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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