Friday, October 19, 2007

Deja vu: Senators Clash with AG Nominee about Torture

Call it deja vu ... Groundhog Day ... whatever you like ... an exchange between Senators and the AG nominee about torture is unsettling, to say the least.

The WaPo reports:

President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey, declined Thursday to say if he considered harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding, which simulates drowning, to constitute torture or to be illegal if used on terrorism suspects.

On the second day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Mukasey went further than he had the day before in arguing that the White House had constitutional authority to act beyond the limits of laws enacted by Congress, especially when it came to national defense.

He suggested that both the administration’s program of eavesdropping without warrants and its use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects, including waterboarding, might be acceptable under the Constitution even if they went beyond what the law technically allowed. Mr. Mukasey said the president’s authority as commander in chief might allow him to supersede laws written by Congress.

When pressed about his stand on the president's authority Mukasey responded:

“The president is not putting somebody above the law; the president is putting somebody within the law,” said Mr. Mukasey, who seemed uncomfortable with the aggressive tone, occasionally stumbling in his responses. “The president doesn’t stand above the law. But the law emphatically includes the Constitution.”

The remarks about the eavesdropping program drew criticism from the committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, who told Mr. Mukasey that he was troubled by his answer, adding, “I see a loophole big enough to drive a truck through.”

In an attempt to get a straight answer from Mukasey, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, engaged in one of the sharpest exchanges.
“Is waterboarding constitutional?” Mr. Mukasey was asked by Senator Whitehouse.

“I don’t know what is involved in the technique,” Mr. Mukasey replied. “If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.”

Mr. Whitehouse described Mr. Mukasey’s response as a “massive hedge” since the nominee refused to be drawn into a conversation about whether waterboarding amounted to torture; many lawmakers from both parties, as well as civil liberties and human rights groups, have said it is clearly a form of torture. The administration has suggested that it ended the practice after protests from Capitol Hill and elsewhere, although it has never said so explicitly.

“I mean, either it is or it isn’t,” Mr. Whitehouse continued.

Waterboarding, he said, “is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their faces and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning. Is that constitutional?”

Mr. Mukasey again demurred, saying, “If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.”

Mr. Whitehouse said he was “very disappointed in that answer; I think it is purely semantic.”
Republicans were quick to heap praise on Mukasey. The committee's ranking Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said that while he shared some of the concerns:
“I think you are virtually certain to be confirmed, and we’re glad to see the appointment and glad to see somebody who is strong, with a strong record, take over this department.”

Other Republicans joined in the praise. “I’ve listened to your testimony here, and it seems to me that you are extraordinarily well-suited for this position, pretty much as well as anybody who hasn’t served in the position before could be,” said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.
No wonder the 2008 presidential campaign began so early, people are just fed up! With Bush's approval rating the lowest in history, the question to ask is why do the Dems keep bending rolling over?


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

For the last time, it's not torture if the Republicans order it.

FranIAm said...

I say this about Mukasey... He is a Giuliani man.


End of story.

pygalgia said...

Can we waterboard him a part of the hearings? And I'm stuck with Jon Kyl as my senator.