Nancy Pelosi: Find the Truth about Torture without Immunity

On MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” last night House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supported calls for a “Truth Commission,” but emphasized that there should be no immunity in exchange for testimony. Here is the relevant portion of the interview:

MADDOW: This is something that liberals have really been pushing. And you have stated your support for John Conyers convening an investigation into potential lawbreaking in the Bush administration.

PELOSI: Absolutely.

MADDOW: You’ve been outspoken about contempt of Congress charges related to the politicization of the Justice Department and that investigation. You have been less specific about how Congress should proceed on wireless warren less wiretapping and torture. Why is that?

PELOSI: …Senator Leahy has a proposal, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is a good idea. What I have some concern about there is it has immunity. And I think that some of the issues involved here, like politicizing of the Justice Department and the rest, may have criminal ramifications, and I don’t think we should be giving them immunity.

But we’ll find a way to go forward — because American people want us to go forward — but also making sure that the Constitution’s respected — and that’s what our issue is, whether you’re talking about separation of power, whether you’re talking about Karl Rove, Josh Bolten, and the others at the White House, not responding to subpoenas by the Congress on the subject of the Justice Department politicizing. And so those issues are still alive.

…I don’t want to look back, I want to go forward, but as we try to have reconciliation, I’m a little hesitant to have immunity… More than a little bit hesitant, let me say. I don’t think we should have immunity for some of those issues.

When asked about prosecutions, Speaker Pelosi said that no one is above the law, and again emphasized the importance of getting to the truth of what happened:

MADDOW: Then in terms of moving forward, if the inspector general report that comes out this summer suggests that there has been criminal activity at the official level on issues like torture, or warrant less wireless wiretapping, or rendition, or any of these other issues…

PELOSI: No one is above the law. The president has said that.

MADDOW: …you would support a referral for a criminal investigation, potential prosecution.

PELOSI: Absolutely. No one is above the law, but we have to go through — we have to have the facts. I mean, we are unhappy about certain things, we anecdotally know about certain things. We will have the documentation of it, and we can go forward. I don’t know what other criminal investigations are going on concurrently, because they are not usually publicly disclosed. But I’m hopeful that as we go forward, the American people will have more confidence in their government and how we protect them. Get liberty and security, they’re very compatible. You don’t have to choose one or the other.

Human Rights First believes that President Obama should direct Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate individuals and hold them accountable for authorizing or engaging in the abuse of detainees.

And, as Senator Leahy has said, “we must read the page before we turn it.” It is vital that we learn if significant mistakes were made. The project of a Truth Commission, no matter what form it takes, should include an analysis of strategic gains (such as attacks provably averted) and strategic losses (such as failure to gain reliable information or harm to U.S. counterterrorism efforts) due to these policies and practices. We need to ask these hard questions so that we can craft strong and lawful national security policies going forward. House Speaker Pelosi is correct: liberty and security are compatible, and an investigation into past practices will serve as necessary support for this idea.

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Published on February 26, 2009

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