Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

America needs a Truth Commission for the Bush years

The Obama administration apparently is not going to turn over the rock to investigate the misdeeds and trespasses of the intelligence community in running amok after 9/11, especially with detainees. This is in keeping with Obama’s non-confrontational "no drama" approach, but I think it is a mistake. First, it will look like the rest of ...

The Obama administration apparently is not going to turn over the rock to investigate the misdeeds and trespasses of the intelligence community in running amok after 9/11, especially with detainees. This is in keeping with Obama's non-confrontational "no drama" approach, but I think it is a mistake. First, it will look like the rest of the world like a cover-up. Second, I think we need to know what we've done, if only to avoid repeating some mistakes.

It's not what I want to see prosecutions of intelligence officers, especially the front-line guys. Rather, I'd like to see what their chain of command told them, or didn't tell them. So what I'd like to see is a truth and reconciliation commission, akin to the one initiated by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Of course, to give such a commission teeth, it would have to be able to extend an amnesty to all those testifying -- with the caveat that those who didn't come forward by a certain date would indeed be liable to prosecution.

What has my back up about this today in particular is a quote from CIA chief Michael Hayden in the Washington Post article: "He's looking forward, and that's very appropriate." I get suspicious when someone here uses the word "appropriate" -- it's Washington's way of telling you to move on, nothing for you little people to worry about.

The Obama administration apparently is not going to turn over the rock to investigate the misdeeds and trespasses of the intelligence community in running amok after 9/11, especially with detainees. This is in keeping with Obama’s non-confrontational "no drama" approach, but I think it is a mistake. First, it will look like the rest of the world like a cover-up. Second, I think we need to know what we’ve done, if only to avoid repeating some mistakes.

It’s not what I want to see prosecutions of intelligence officers, especially the front-line guys. Rather, I’d like to see what their chain of command told them, or didn’t tell them. So what I’d like to see is a truth and reconciliation commission, akin to the one initiated by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Of course, to give such a commission teeth, it would have to be able to extend an amnesty to all those testifying — with the caveat that those who didn’t come forward by a certain date would indeed be liable to prosecution.

What has my back up about this today in particular is a quote from CIA chief Michael Hayden in the Washington Post article: "He’s looking forward, and that’s very appropriate." I get suspicious when someone here uses the word "appropriate" — it’s Washington’s way of telling you to move on, nothing for you little people to worry about.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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