Common Cause releases statement in support of nonpartisan commission of inquiry

Contact: Susan Lerner

The hearing held today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, entitled “Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry,” examined whether to establish a commission to examine past policies – particularly those of the Bush administration – on national security and executive power. Secrecy and an overbroad view of presidential power became hallmarks of the Bush administration. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VA) called the hearing to determine how to address those concerns – and define the scope of a commission – as a way to uncover any abuses and ultimately move forward with confidence that such abuses could be prevented in the future.

Common Cause strongly supports the creation of a Commission of Inquiry as a necessity to resolve the constitutional crisis precipitated by the anti-constitutional philosophy that dominated the executive branch and continues to impact foreign and domestic policies. In a statement to the Committee, Common Cause urged that the proposed Commission not be limited in its inquiry to any one area of illegal or unconstitutional conduct, such as policies to fight terrorism.

“To move forward, we must know the truth regarding past conduct. To do so is not looking back, but rather looking to the future. Continued secrecy and indifference to prior conduct will do lasting damage to the fabric of our democracy, weakening faith in our ability to live up to the promise of governance by laws, not men, enshrined in our founding documents,” according to the group’s statement.

“If crimes and abuses did occur, and we do not know – much less understand – their extent, then the likelihood that such misconduct will be repeated, but next time on an even larger scale, is virtually guaranteed.”

Recent discussion regarding an independent, nonpartisan commission has centered on policies specifically pegged to the “War on Terror,” including torture, rendition, and domestic warrantless wiretapping. Common Cause held that an inquiry should include the use of signing statements and politicization of government agencies including the Department of Justice, as well.

“We believe that such a broad inquiry is required in order to restore the nation’s understanding of and reverence for the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, a free and open society, human rights, and our American system of checks and balances,” the group said in its statement.

The full statement can be found at