Date: May 14, 2009 5:48 PM
Today, I participated in Judiciary Committee hearings where Attorney General Eric Holder said definitively: "If somebody was tortured to death, clearly a crime would have occurred."
My confidence in our Justice Department and American justice system was redeemed today while watching and listening to Attorney General Holder. There is now no doubt we are on the proper road toward re-establishing a nation that protects our citizens and respects human rights.
As the New York Times reported yesterday, Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, testified to Congress that more than 100 detainees died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. CBS is reporting that "roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel."
Contrary to the story told when the Abu Ghraib photos emerged, we now have sworn testimony to the House of Representatives and the Senate of a systematic and deliberate approval of abusive techniques.
Two weeks ago, my colleagues and I introduced HRes 383 which would set up a Select Committee with subpoena power to investigate Bush Administration conduct and to issue detailed recommendations on how to reform our national security laws so what happened in recent years never happens again.
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I have called on Attorney General Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor to commence an investigation into torture allegations. This is a vital step toward reestablishing our national security firmly under the rule of law.
Congress -- and every American -- deserve to know what the government has done in their name. More importantly, all of our citizens deserve to be involved in and informed about the debate over the limits of governmental power as we move forward to thoroughly revise our national security laws - including the Patriot Act - to ensure that our nation honors human rights and abides by the law.
Lawrence Wilkenson further stated, "what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 -- well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion."
Earlier this week, Philip Zelikow, former counselor at the State Department and a trusted adviser and deputy to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, revealed the Bush Administration instructed him to destroy a memo challenging the legality of the interrogation tactics.
We must immediately appoint a Special Prosecutor and approve an investigative committee with the teeth to get answers. Answers and more importantly, accountability is long overdue.