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Leahy vows tougher oversight of terror war

WASHINGTON -- President Bush should expect tougher oversight of the war on terrorism and a closer look at his administration's policies on torture and other human rights issues, the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said yesterday.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said his panel also will look at recommendations by the Iraq Study Group that law enforcement officials from the FBI and other offices in the Justice Department be sent to Iraq to boost a police force riddled with corruption. Leahy cited reports that police helped Saddam Hussein's nephew escape from a prison near Mosul. "The police force has proven to be one of the worst failures of the occupation," Leahy said. "I look forward to the Judiciary Committee contributing to these efforts by exploring the dozen recommendations relating to the Iraqi justice system and the training of Iraqi police forces."

Leahy said he would also deal with what he says are the administration's human rights abuses by creating a new subcommittee focused on legislation on such issues as torture and detainee treatment.

"If there's anything that can unite Republicans and Democrats, it's that," Leahy said.

Leahy also talked tough about President Bush's "signing statements," in which the president has laid out which parts of laws he has just signed that he will follow and which he might not. As did the current committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, Leahy suggested Congress could dissuade Bush from issuing more signing statements by threatening to withhold funding or blocking nominations.

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