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Obama’s Comments on the Leahy Proposal for a Truth Commission

From the transcript of President Obama’s press conference:

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. Today, Senator Patrick Leahy announced that he wants to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. He said that, before you turn the page, you have to read the page first.

Do you agree with such a proposal? And are you willing to rule out right here and now any prosecution of Bush administration officials?

Obama: I haven’t seen the proposals, so I don’t want to express an opinion on something that I haven’t seen.

What I have said is that my administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture, that we abide by the Geneva Conventions, and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process, as we are vigorously going after terrorists that can do us harm. And I don’t think those are contradictory; I think they are potentially complementary.

My view is also that nobody’s above the law and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen.

But that, generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards. I want to pull everybody together, including, by the way, the — all the members of the intelligence community who have done things the right way and have been working hard to protect America and I think sometimes are painted with a broad brush without adequate information.

So I will take a look at Senator Leahy’s proposal, but my general orientation is to say let’s get it right moving forward.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.