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Truthdigger of the Week: Sen. Patrick Leahy

Truthdig tips its hat this week to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who proved to be one of the most forceful, and appropriately relentless, interrogators of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales during his grilling (or perhaps broiling is a better word) by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Committee Chairman Leahy left no doubt as to his own convictions as he laid out his take on the attorney general’s–and the Bush administration’s–roles in the dismissal of eight federal attorneys, accusing Gonzales and “other department officials” of covering up the truth, and, on a broader scale, “duck[ing] real accountability for years.” The senator also noted the shift in power that occurred when Democrats assumed congressional control following November’s elections, accusing his Republican colleagues of creating a “rubber-stamping Congress” while they held the reins in prior years. “The American people have a new Congress,” Leahy declared, one that “will get the truth.”

The imperiled attorney general faced off with Leahy three months prior to Thursday’s hearing, when he was called to explain the Justice Department’s actions in the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was, and apparently still is, on a terrorist watch list in the United States. Arar was detained at JFK Airport on his way home to Canada in 2002, and, instead of being turned over to his own government for investigation, he was deported to Syria. According to Leahy, Arar was then held — and tortured — for 10 months in Syria.

The Canadian government has taken steps to make amends to Arar (Leahy notes that the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police resigned over the case), but there has been no similar gesture in the Bush administration. Watch the clip below to see the full exchange, in which Leahy rips into Gonzales as the attorney general contends he must put off the issue until a later date because he is not “at liberty” to discuss Arar in front of the committee. Clearly, being in the hot seat with Leahy staring you down is not an enviable position.

Watch and listen:

Senator Leahy’s exchange with Gonzales about Maher Arar in January:

Related links:

Click here to see another video, posted on truthout.org, of Leahy’s statements regarding the U.S. attorney firings.

Democracy Now! has a partial transcript of Leahy’s confrontation with Gonzales, as well as other links about the hearings and Arar’s case.

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