Investigating The Bush Administration

by: Chris Bowers

Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 18:45 has their responses to the second round of "open for questions" up. The most popular question came from Bob Fertik, who asked:

"Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?"

This question has received a decent amount of media play, as it is featured by Keith Olbermann and George Stephanopoulos. The latter teases that he asked Obama this question in an interview for "This Week" tomorrow morning.'s response to Fertik's question was a bit of a non-answer, quoting Biden from three weeks ago:

Vice President-elect Biden, 12/21/08: "[T]he questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is--is something the Justice Department decides.  Barack Obama and I are--President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We're focusing on the future... I'm not ruling [prosecution] in and not ruling it out. I just think we should look forward. I think we should be looking forward, not backwards."

While not ruling out investigation, Biden's response makes it clear that such investigations will not be a priority. It is a safe bet that Obama will provide a similar answer tomorrow morning.

This is an instance where we do not have to wait for the Justice Department, however. Given that, in the U.S. House, John Conyers has introduced legislation to set up commissions to investigate the Bush administration, this could actually be a perfect starting point for the progressive legislation monitoring project. Starting on either Monday or Tuesday, we could call the Democratic members of the four(!) committees to which the Conyers bill, H.R. 104, has been referred, and ask them if they support it. In so doing, we can find out who is blocking the bill on our end.

Now, I did not originally list H.R. 104 as one of the pieces of legislation for the project to start with, because it is just a commission rather than an actual investigation. If no one is actually going to be prosecuted, this might not rise above the level of a resolution condemning something or congratulating someone. However, it is something that a lot of netroots activists and media types are both interested in, so I am willing to make it one of the bills we start with if there is enough support here. To go along with it, I will try to find another piece of legislation that has been referred to each of the four committees in question, so that we are asking members about more than one bill. If we can find out about more than one piece of legislation with each contact, it would make the monitoring project much more efficient.

So, I'd like to hear from you. Let me know what you think about starting with H.R. 104, creating a commission to investigate Bush-era crimes, in the comments. Also, in the extended entry, I have included a poll on the matter.

Chris Bowers :: Investigating The Bush Administration
Should we start the monitoring project with H.R. 104, creating a commission to investigate Bush-era crimes?
Unsure / Depends


Tags: , , , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

No to Commission - Yes to Special Prosecutor (4.00 / 3)
We should push Congress to sponsor a resolution calling for a Special Prosecutor.  Or how about legislation re-establishing the Office of Independent Prosecutor.  We do not need a commission because we know that crimes were committed.  Besides, a commission would take up time and could lead to another whitewash if the appointees are the wrong people.  By the time a commission report is out, the anger could well have died down and then nothing will get done.

The list of crimes is very long and the corroborating stories in the mainstream media have been written and printed.  Anything less than a special prosecutor is too tepid for me.

Why not both? (0.00 / 0)
Hell, have as much as you can.  Bring in Vincent Bugliosi.  Bring in Mike Hammer.  Why do we have to pick just one avenue?

[ Parent ]
Jerrold Nadler's H.Res. 9 (4.00 / 1)
calls for a Special Prosecutor.

Nadler first introduced it in December as H.Res. 1531 and got 9 co-sponsors:

I agree with ammasdarling that we need a Special Prosecutor, not a commission that will just delay justice for another year or two.

Let's call Congress to support H.Res. 9, not H.R. 104.

[ Parent ]
I've got my dialing fingers ready (0.00 / 0)
Whatever is decided.  

This is a must in my mind. (4.00 / 1)
Please - this really has to be pursued. I have called my reps but a concerted effort here could really make a difference.  

We must begin someshere, yes? (0.00 / 0)
Scott Horton has advanced a case for beginning with commissions; Justice after Bush:
Prosecuting an outlaw administration
(subscription may be required).

Horton argues in favor of what he calls an investigative commission;

Investigative commissions can provide truth. They can establish an important record. They can reaffirm important taboos. But they cannot provide justice. For that they are simply a first step. The second step, which I will discuss only briefly, is a formal prosecution, most likely by an executive- appointed special prosecutor. In this model-call it "commission plus special prosecutor"-the commission would find the facts, weigh them, and, if the facts warrant, make a formal recommendation for the appointment of a prosecutor, identifying the matters that necessitate further investigation. Even if the commission were to determine that no prosecutable crimes had occurred-and, given the legal complexities of such an undertaking, such a finding is possible-it would perform the absolutely necessary function of educating the public. If, on the other hand, the commission were to determine that criminal investigation was appropriate, it already would have created essential public support for such action.

I imagine this would be easy enough for most to support.  The overarching fear is the appointment of a commission that does little more than the 9.11 commission did.  I fear that result as well.  That would be, IMHO, a third best option.

Horton argues that a commission is necessary to bring the American public inline and prepared for a prosecution.  We need to drag the evidence in all it's horrific glory out of the ocean and up on the beach where all can gawk at it.  In a sense we need one of those traffic bottlenecks where traffic slows to gawk at the bloody mess in the opposite travel lane.

The problem as I see it is the direction from whence Horton imagine the authority of that commission.

From what source would the commission draw its authority? The most obvious place would be the executive branch itself. The next president could appoint a commission of inquiry with the stroke of a pen, and such a commission would have many strengths. It could be created quickly; it would answer to one master; and, since it would be created with the authority of the president, it could demand the cooperation of government actors and access to classified documents.

And, to me, this is the linchpin.  If Obama is not on board with this idea, and doesn't offer more than "truth" without any accounting for the truth that is found, I wonder if it would be worth the aggravation.  Any group of our congressional crotch-clutching-morons can produce a document which finds little wrong, few in violation, and nothing to prosecute.

Commission First... (4.00 / 1)
Look, if you create a special prosecutor, you push all information through a secret Grand Jury, and then through the rules of evidence as to what can and can't be put on the record in a trial -- and I don't think that is what is needed right now.  

What is needed is a venue for putting on the record what "they" did.  This needs to be, for the most part, all out in public.  We naturally think in terms of punishment of the guilty, but what we may need much more than that is Legislative Clarity on a whole host of matters particularly regarding Civil Liberties and all, as well as powers of the Executive Branch of Government.  That can be done much more effectively by commission.  

Problem is, how to get one if Obama and Congressional Leadership is luke warm.  I remind that we almost didn't get the 9/11 Commission, it was only because the family organization put on pressure for months that it was forced on the Administration and Congress.  

So what kind of large scale movement needs to begin to materalize that can play the birthing role the 9/11 Families played in that commission's being established. I would suggest if a strong and diverse movement with a clear purpose doesn't show up in the next six weeks -- forget it.  

Apparently a good many of the inner circle in the Bush Administration are "ready to talk" -- if what Sy Hearsh says about principles who have said, "call me at 12:01 PM on Jan 20th, and we'll talk."  But no matter how much talking is done, and how much is published in the New Yorker, et. al., it needs to go on a public record, and be sworn to in a commission event.

My own sense is to measure how deep you need a Commission to go by whether or not the Bush and Cheney offices actually deliver required records to the National Archives on or before Jan 20th.  (Records would include all those millions of missing E-Mails, and much else.)  They don't necessarily need to open all this -- but it needs to be inventoried for the sake of a complete record of the Bush/Cheney years.  The argument for a Commission gets much stronger if they pack the Archive boxes with junk, and don't hand over the true Presidential Papers, Documents and all the rest.    

they've already admitted breaking laws, no? (0.00 / 0)
Why is any commission or investigator needed?

Why can't they just be charged and arrested?

Any commission will be a sham, and only end up with "recommendations" after a year or 2 of "bipartisan" study.

Executive branch investigating the Executive branch? (4.00 / 1)
I realize there is precedence here, but why not the Legislative branch accepting some of its Constitutional responsibilities?

Checks and balances is predicated on three active and involved branches of government.  Hell, Article I of the Constitution suggests primacy of the Legislative branch (by its content and its originating ordering in the context of the Constitution).  They need to start accepting their role in this.

If commissions are the first step, so be it, but let them not be the last step.

If we leave it to the Obama administration to execute an investigation we are neglecting our responsibilities as citizens and the Congress is abdicating its responsibility as the legislative body.  We are just looking for excuses.

Push forward on this.  Let us not allow criminal acts to go unpunished!

My instinctive inclination (0.00 / 0)
is to come out swinging, with a special prosecutor, congressional commission, congressional special committee and standing investigation, and regular DoJ investigations--whatever ammo we've got, let's use it ASAP.

My more thoughtful inclination, though, is to start slowly, under the radar (and thus gun), so as to build the strongest cases possible, which takes time, while avoiding the appearance of a "partisan witch hunt" which the wingers well yell 24/7, and which would distract from this and other initiatives. This is something that absolutely, positively needs to be done, but it needs to be done right, the way that is most likely to actually succeed in the end. I don't want this to be another gays in the military, Hillary Health Care, Iraq War Resolution, or Feingold Censure resolution. I want this to SUCCEED.

Which is why I'm thinking that we might want to start out with lower-key congressional hearings, and preliminary DoJ investigations, which, if done right, are BOUND to lead to bigger and bigger ones. This needs to percolate up, not trickle down, and be done in a way that prevents the wingers from sabotaging it, or Obama and the Dems' agenda, via their RWNM, and at the same time wins over the public, as a consequence of a steady drip drip drip of revelations and indictments. Watergate took a while, and this is vastly bigger.

Also, if Obama is at all intending to seriously investigate, this is how he's likely to do it.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

That is beginning to be done (0.00 / 0)
There was Levin's torture hearing, for example.

If the truth commission is to study FiSA and warrantless wiretapping, it is better to have some independent source so that the issue does not get wrapped up in any FISA-fixing legislation that Congress does. It will be difficult enough to get such legislation past a filibuster.  

Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable, and lightness has a call that's hard to hear.  

[ Parent ]
Just don't think it will happen... (4.00 / 2)
As much as I'd love to see something, I just don't think Obama has it in him.  For that matter, I'm not sure how many incoming presidents would... I think the incoming presidents probably think more about their own agenda and what they can accomplish, rather than digging up a bunch of dirt and prosecuting the last guys.  I very much doubt that Obama has the "political capital" to prosecute Bush, and if he does... I highly doubt he intends to spend it on that, as there probably wouldn't be much more left for the stuff he wants to do.

Also the fear (0.00 / 0)
> For that matter, I'm not sure how many incoming
> presidents would... I think the incoming presidents
> probably think more about their own agenda and what
>  they can accomplish, rather than digging up a
> bunch of dirt and prosecuting the last guys.

I think Dick Cheney very much counted on the incoming president N being afraid that if he conducted investigations or prosecutions that a friend of the investigated president N-1 would be elected as president N+1 (Jeb Bush, say, or Matt Blunt) and turn around and prosecute president N on some trumped up but difficult to refute charges.  


[ Parent ]
It isn't going to happen, imo. (4.00 / 1)
They blew off legalizing pot, a valid way to trim expenditures, raise revenues, and create new jobs.   They sure as hell aren't going to risk their approval ratings on something as vague as justice.  

I don't like a commission looking specifically for war crimes (0.00 / 0)
What I would like is to wait for the withdrawal troops from Iraq, or at least the bulk of forces, then appoint a commission to do a serious look at the entirety of the war.  It would be spun as a sort of Iraq Study Group II: Electric Boogaloo.  Its mission would be to look over the totality of the war and possible war crimes would be only one part of its jurisdiction.

It should be done with a veneer of bipartisanship (is Chuck Hagel bored with retirement yet?) to have maximum effectiveness.  It would probably be better off as a Congressional select committee rather than a panel so that we have public hearings and subpeona power.

I have no problem with putting this on the backburner until economic stimulus and health care are taken care of.  That gives time for Congress to employ its powers of oversight.  In the past, I was theoretically in favor of impeaching Bush and practically opposed to it.  My reasoning was that Congress needed to have hearings first to establish the grounds for impeachment rather than come out swinging like a lynch mob.

Overall, I think that this is something that should initiate with the legislative and not executive branch.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

Perp Walk may not happen (0.00 / 0)
Mcjoan over at Daily Kos had an essay about how the establishment sweapt all the Nixon crap under the rug after the Trickster left office.

I think so many Ds and Rs and the media are tainted by the whole mess that they don't want it investigated or they might go for one of those show hearings like the 9/11 one where they made some recommendations but nothing was done.

Answering the Past


Open Left Campaigns



Advanced Search

Powered by: SoapBlox