The Bush administration tried to justify its behavior with outlandish legal opinions that claimed extraordinary powers for the president to disobey laws passed by Congress and international treaties like the Geneva Conventions. Those actions continue to provide excuses for governments of other countries to engage in undemocratic behavior and violate human rights. It is not enough for the Obama administration to simply say that we are changing our policies going forward.
Re-establishing the rule of law requires insisting on some accountability — though that need not necessarily take the form of criminal liability, at least initially. Such a commission would help bring to light what happened and why, and would solidify our nation’s repudiation of these illegal actions.