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The Case for Establishing a Truth Commission for Bush's Torture and Spying Crew

On Capitol Hill, debate has begun over forming a truth commission to shed light on the Bush administration’s secret and illegal terror polices.

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Then, two of the memos—and this is pretty interesting—actually concerned Jose Padilla. Jose Padilla, you remember, got off the plane in Chicago, the so-called dirty bomber, never charged with that, and when he’s in the prison, the military comes to the prison door. They knock. Maybe they knock. And they say, “Give us Jose Padilla.” And they grab him. This is in America. This is in the United States. And they take him, and for five years they put him in a military brig. Two of the memos justify and say the President had the power to do that to Jose Padilla, an American citizen living in the United States, that the military could come in—could come in and get him.

Then, a couple of these memos go to what—parts that we haven’t yet seen exposed, which I think will be a broad and vast intelligence effort in the United States, surveillance effort, done by the Department of Defense, under the auspices of these memos, to essentially surveil and look into what all of us are doing in the United States. That hasn’t come out yet completely, but it’s going to be in these memos.

And there’s another memo on the warrantless wiretapping that essentially says the commander-in-chief can carry out warrantless wiretapping as his commander-in-chief power.

And let’s look at what these memos were built on. You know, first you have the question of, are we at war at all? So, first you have this questionable proposition, this questionable proposition that the war against al-Qaeda, so-called war against al-Qaeda, or the global war on terror, is a war at all. Or shouldn’t this be really a legal operation in which people are arrested and charged? So, my position, of course, is this should have been done under law. But so, they first make a questionable assumption about war, and then, once they call it a war, they then say, “Well, the President’s the commander-in-chief, and under war, commander-in-chief power, he can do whatever he wants.” So even if this had been the Second World War, he couldn’t have the power that he’s asserting here.

I have to say that, you know, to see these memos, to put it into that they were actually instrumentalized—this is not just theoretical; this is what was happening here for eight years, essentially a dictatorship—and then to see the response of many of the Democrats here to saying, “Oh, let’s just expose it and turn the page,” I mean, what we’re saying is that’s the way it’s going to happen again, because unless you prosecute people, there is no deterrence for not doing this again. And it’s out there, it’s public. If you’re going to do a commission—and I’m opposed completely to the Leahy type—if you’re going to do one, you can’t bury the issue of prosecution. You have to appoint a special prosecutor and make sure a commission of inquiry works together, because a commission can tear up and finish up prosecutions by giving immunity.

Gonzalez: And Michael, the prime author of these memos, John Yoo, what happened to him? He went back for awhile, left the Bush administration, went back to Berkeley, law school, to teach. What’s happened with him since?

Ratner: Well, first of all, I think that these memos, these most recent ones, shred any semblance, any scintilla of reputation that John Yoo ever had that he was, you know, doing something in essentially an honest way. I mean, this finishes his reputation. I think the only—the questions we’re faced with are, is he going to be disbarred, and is he going to be prosecuted?

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