[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile] announced [materials] on Wednesday that the Committee is set to begin hearings on the creation of a truth commission charged with investigating the national security policies of the George W. Bush [JURIST news archive] administration. Speaking on the Senate floor, Leahy called the hearing Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry, and said that the panel's primary focus would be on harsh interrogation tactics, extraordinary rendition [JURIST reports] and the Bush administration's broad use of executive authority. Leahy said the purpose of the commission was to not to cast blame for the policies, but to learn from previous mistakes and to regain US authority on human rights:
Nothing has done more to damage Americas standing and moral authority than the revelations that, during the last eight years, we abandoned our historic commitment to human rights by repeatedly stretching the law and the bounds of executive power to authorize torture and cruel treatment. As President Obama said to Congress and to the American people [on Tuesday] "if were honest with ourselves, well admit that for too long we have not always met our responsibilities. But what the President said about the economy also holds true here, it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we will be able to move forward. How can we restore our moral leadership and ensure transparent government if we ignore what has happened?The hearings are scheduled to begin on March 4.
Leahy first called [JURIST report] for the creation of such a commission earlier this month. Members of the House Judiciary Committee [official website] have also called for an investigation into the actions of Bush administration officials, and Obama has said that he would not rule out such an investigation [JURIST reports]. The Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] has alleged [report] that top Bush officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive], bore major responsibility for abuses committed by U.S. interrogators in military detention centers.