The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee called Sunday for a commission to probe the use of torture against suspected terror detainees, amid calls by some that the country simply bury the controversy.
"I know some people say, let's turn the page. Frankly, I'd like to read the page before we turn it," Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy told the CBS television's "Face the Nation" program.
"Why not have a nonpartisan or bipartisan commission do it, like we did in 9/11, and just go back and find everything that happened?" said Leahy, referring to the blue-ribbon investigatory panel assembled in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The bipartisan September 11 commission probed the causes that led to the terror attacks on New York and Washington and offered guidelines to prevent future attacks.
Leahy said he was not motivated to propose a similar panel by "some idea of vengeance" but by a quest for the truth.
"We know that there were a number of people that made the decision to violate the law, a number of people who said that we don't have to follow our constitution," the Democratic senator said.
He added that others who backed harsh treatment for detainees "wrote memos basically saying the president and the vice president are above the law -- that the laws of the United States don't apply to them like they do to you and me."
"I want to know why they did that," the senator continued.
"What kind of pressures brought them to write things that are so off the wall, and to make sure it never happens again."
But a senior Republican senator with a long track record opposing torture, John McCain, argued that establishing an inquiry on the torture issue could prove "divisive" for a country already polarized over the issue.
"It is well known what happened. There (are) going to be pictures that are going to be coming out, which will again authenticate that wrong things were done," the 2008 Republican presidential nominee said.
"But are you going to prosecute people for giving bad legal advice? Are you going to keep on down this road in order? said McCain, who lost against Barack Obama in his quest last year for the White House.
"We need to put this behind us. We need to move forward," he said, adding: "We need a united nation, not a divided one."
Debate has raged on the issue of prosecuting officials who backed harsh interrogation for terror inmates, after the Obama administration last week released four sensitive memos that blew the lid on the practice, which was approved under former president George W. Bush, including the use of insects, simulated drowning and sleep deprivation.
Obama has said that CIA officers involved in interrogations should not be prosecuted because they were carrying out orders. But he left the door open to possible prosecution of senior figures in the previous administration.
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