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Dems seek 'Truth Commission' probe of Bush

ABC 7 (San Francisco)
by Mark Matthews
March 4, 2009

WASHINGTON (KGO) -- There were calls on Capitol Hill Wednesday for an investigation into how the Bush Administration conducted its War On Terror. There is a proposal for a so-called "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" to be formed.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D) from Vermont, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, is leading Democrats in calling for a blue-ribbon panel to investigate allegations of torture at Guantanamo.

The so-called Truth Commission would look into a series of secret memos from the Office of Legal Counsel that advised President Bush, telling him he had unprecedented powers to detain and eavesdrop and interrogate using techniques that had been considered torture.

"It's important for an independent body to hear these assertions, but also for others if we're going to make an objective and independent judgment about what happened," said Senator Leahy.

Leahy says he's not looking for criminal indictments, just the truth of what happened.

At U.C. Davis, Almerindo Ojeda Ph.D., leads a group of scholars collecting accounts of prisoners and guards at Guantanamo. On Tuesday, he wrote to Leahy's committee urging formation of the Truth Commission.

"I think it's necessary and inevitable. I think if we don't do it, someone will be doing it for us," said Ojeda.

Ojeda says he's heard from a Guantanamo guard who described how prisoners were tortured by the camps medical staff.

"Inducing pain in them under the guise of treatment, that whole thing is very little known," said Ojeda.

Opponents of shutting down the Guantanamo detention center include John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor and former Bush Administration attorney, who authored key legal justifications for the interrogations. Yoo told the Orange County Register on Tuesday, closing Guantanamo and ending the interrogations carries a cost, "The cost& we will get less information about the enemy."

"Information extracted by torture is just pure crap. I've seen it, you ask me how I know, because we used to read these intelligence reports," said Robert Baer, a former CIA agent.

Robert Baer spent 21 years in the CIA, most of it in the Middle East. He says the CIA's admission that it destroyed 92 tapes of so-called harsh interrogations should lead to a criminal investigation.

"The only reason they would destroy these tapes, is if they had something to hide and that's evidence. And if people are destroying evidence in a potential criminal trial, they should go to jail," said Baer.

Right now Democrats in the Senate say they'll forgo the pursuit of criminal indictments, but Republicans worry the commission would become a political hammer.

"The suggestion that this subject can be delved into somehow in a non-partisan fashion, to me, asks us to suspend our power of disbelief," said Senator John Cornyn (R) of Texas.

Former CIA Agent Robert Baer told ABC7 the torture interrogations were conducted mostly by contractors that CIA agents, actual agents, knew it was illegal and wouldn't get involved.

If you want to read what everyone from FBI agents and interrogators, to the detainees themselves, have told the Guantanamo Testimonials Project at U.C. Davis, you can click on the link below.

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