[JURIST] Chairman of the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website; JURIST news archive] Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile; JURIST news archive] called for the creation of a truth commission to investigate the national security policies of the George W. Bush [JURIST news archive] administration at a hearing [video; materials] Wednesday. Leahy said a nonpartisan inquiry [statement] "could focus on the issues of national security and executive power in the government's counterterrorism efforts, including the issues of cruel interrogation, extraordinary rendition, and executive override of laws." Leahy said a commission would not be focused on preparing criminal indictments, but it should have subpoena powers. Ranking Republican on the committee Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official profile; JURIST news archive] opposed the formation [transcript] of a commission, saying the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], under a new administration, was equipped to handle any such investigation. The committee heard testimony in favor of a commission from former ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering [official profile], Retired Vice Adm. Lee Gunn, former 9-11 [JURIST news archive] commission member John Farmer [professional profile] and attorney Federick A.O. Schwarz Jr. Former DOJ official David Rivkin and George Mason University professor Jeremy Rabkin [faculty profile] testified in opposition to a truth commission.
The hearing came two days after the DOJ released [JURIST report] Bush-era documents in support of that administration's controversial counterterrorism tactics. Leahy announced [JURIST report] the hearing in February, saying the panel's primary focus would be interrogation tactics, extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive], and Bush's broad use of executive authority. Leahy first called [JURIST report] for the creation of such a commission earlier in February. 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, PDF; JURIST report] that top Bush officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive], "bore major responsibility" for abuses committed by US interrogators in military detention centers.