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Today the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the idea of a commission of inquiry to look into criminal wrongdoing by the Bush Administration. Here’s Tim Rutten in today’s Los Angeles Times:
Just how close to the brink of executive tyranny did the United States come in the panic that swept George W. Bush’s administration after 9/11? The answer, it now seems clear, is that we came far closer than even staunch critics of the White House believed…
Understanding how all this occurred, as well as how the CIA came to destroy 92 videotapes of the torture and incarceration it carried out under the authority of the Yoo memos, is vital. The problem is that ordinary congressional hearings would inevitably be attacked as partisan. And we don’t need a witch-hunt or a series of prosecutions of CIA officers who were following orders they’d been told were based on legal opinions from the Department of Justice. That’s why Congress should take up the suggestion of Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and establish a bipartisan citizens commission to investigate and report on exactly what occurred. We need to understand just how close fear and overweening ambition took us to executive tyranny.
Salon’s Mark Benjamin surveys a number of experts on the mechanics of the commission and finds them remarkably agreed on most of the open questions about the mechanics of a commission:
Experts on government fact-finding missions interviewed by Salon, however, articulated surprisingly similar advice for
Congress on how to conduct spadework on the torture issue, including unanimity on exactly who should not participate in an investigation: current members of Congress. “My thought is that is probably not the way to go in this case,” said Kenneth Kitts, author of “Presidential Commissions & National Security: The Politics of Damage Control”… Kitts and other experts suggested the creation of an independent commission, buoyed by force of law, generously funded and staffed and focused almost exclusively on detention and interrogation issues during the Bush administration. It would be something along the lines
of the 9-11 Commission.
“I would prefer a commission of well-known figures, not bipartisan but non-partisan,” said Juan Mendez, president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, an organization that assists countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse. By nonpartisan, Mendez said he meant individuals with reputations for integrity and not known for having a political ax to grind. “I would prefer that members of Congress not be part of it,” he said.
The commission should investigate torture, but probably refrain from wandering into other abuses such as warrantless wire-tapping, most experts said. “It is not a good idea to frame it as, ‘Let’s look at everything the Bush administration did,’” explained Lisa Magarrell, who works with Mendez at the ICTJ. She suggested that Republicans would reflexively label a broader mandate as a political witch hunt.
I came out just where Mendez and Kitts do on these issues, and we’re all also agreed on the “amnesty” question: it makes no sense to make a decision about amnesty or prosecution until you’ve fully investigated and settled the facts. That question needs to be asked and answered at the end, not at the beginning of the process.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, scientists found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to.
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”