Attorney General Nominee OK With Some Torture
by Jeff Dinelli
At his confirmation hearing today, potential Attorney General Judge Mike Mukasey gave some troubling answers regarding torture and if the president can break the law. Up until today, his testimony indicated that torture was something which could not be allowed. Yesterday Mukasey said torture is "antithetical to what this country stands for. I would be uncomfortable with any evidence used in trial that is coerced." But this afternoon things turned from pretty ok to bad when the retired judge essentially refused to call waterboarding unconstitutional.
The problem revolves around Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which outlaws many torture techniques, including waterboarding. Mukasey would not state that the Article applies to all prisoners in U.S. custody, including those held by the C.I.A. He said that some practices that go beyond the ones permitted by the Army Field Manual are permissable. That basically opens the door for the government, including the C.I.A., to use violent interrogation violating Common Article 3.
During questioning by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Mukasey would not call waterboarding unconstitutional, and kept saying it all depends on how you define "torture":
MUKASEY: If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional. […]
WHITEHOUSE: If it’s torture. That’s a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn’t. Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding…is constitutional?
MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.
WHITEHOUSE: I’m very disappointed in that answer. I think it is purely semantic.
MUKASEY: I’m sorry.
Even C.I.A. Director Gen. Michael Hayden bans waterboarding from use during interrogation. This should be an automatic "no" from any half-assed judge, let alone one of Mukasey's experience. What exactly are the qualifications for Attorney General that Bush is looking for? Someone with a pulse? Are we expected to be satisfied, after the Gonzales debacle, to be happy with anyone who doesn't answer every significant question posed to him with "I can't recall?"
Listening to Mukasey, it appears that Bush's idea was to find someone adept at the verbal gymnastics necessary to avoid defining torture so there's enough loopholes left for this administration to do whatever the hell it wants with detainees. Mukasey will admit that the president doesn't have the Constitutional right to torture, but that pesky Article II can be twisted just enough to allow Bush to slither right around FISA, especially to "safeguard against a national security threat."
Republicans present were crawling over each other's backs to heap praise on the man who will be our next AG, Democrats tried to remember what exactly their jurisdiction was for confirmation hearings, and our constitution hung there, weakly, in the balance.