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January 29, 2015

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Reid declines forming panel to probe Bush interrogation tactics

Push for bipartisan commission intensified after Obama releases classified memos

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Harry Reid

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today declined to call for an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration’s interrogation tactics, preferring instead to let a Senate committee continue its own inquiry.

President Barack Obama opened the door this week to a possible bipartisan panel similar to the one that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks.

The push for such an inquiry has intensified in recent days after Obama’s release of previously classified Justice Department memos that outline harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding that many consider torture.

Reid, however, would not follow suit.

Instead, Reid said the Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, should finish its inquiry into the interrogations.

“I believe what we have to do is wait until the Intelligence Committee finishes its work,” Reid told the Las Vegas Sun.

Reid said Feinstein’s committee has subpoena power and can conduct closed hearings that he believes can produce results.

“The next step in my mind is to let her complete her work, because she can get to it a lot easier than anyone else,” Reid said. “That’s what we have to do.”

Several House and Senate committees have been investigating interrogation methods and other national security issues during the Bush administration’s response to the terrorist attacks.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week also released a long-running inquiry into the military’s interrogation methods.

Feinstein’s committee announced last month it was launching a year-long review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

Voices on the left that have long pushed for an inquiry into the Bush administrations national security policies.

Opponents, however, including Republican Sen. John Ensign, believe such a move would be “dangerous” for national security and set a poor precedent for future administrations. Many Republicans have been extremely critical of Obama’s release of the memos, saying they pose a security risk.

Reid’s position today runs fairly consistent with his previous comments on whether Congress should create a broad investigatory panel.

In December, Reid’s office told the Sun it was considering the best way to proceed on these issue.

But in an interview with Nevada reporters in March, Reid said he preferred to have the committees that oversee such issues continue their work.

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