Judiciary Dems Want Mukasey to Condemn Waterboarding

Ten Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey today. You can read it here.

Shorter version: stop mincing words and condemn water boarding:

Your unwillingness to state that waterboarding is illegal may place Americans at risk of being subjected to this abusive technique. If the United States does not explicitly and publicly condemn waterboarding, it will be more difficult to argue that enemy forces cannot waterboard American prisoners. It also makes it more difficult for the United States to condemn repressive governments that use waterboarding on their own citizens. We are particularly troubled by recent reports that the Burmese military has used this form of torture against democracy activists. Human rights abuses such as this have rightly prompted the Administration to impose additional sanctions against the Burmese regime.

Please respond to the following question: Is the use of waterboarding, or inducing the misperception of drowning, as an interrogation technique illegal under U.S. law, including treaty obligations?

My latest thoughts on Mukasey and waterboarding are in a post I wrote this morning for Firedoglake on the mistrial in the terrorism funding charity trial.

Once Mukasey refused to say that waterboarding is torture, he lost his way home. I can just picture him leaving the confirmation hearing. He’s got a piece of the waterboard stuck on the sole of his shoe, like you know what, and no matter how many times he tries to scrape it off, it’s still there. The piece won’t leave Muckasey. It’s there to remind him that he’s one of them now. He’s solid with the Administration’s refusal to promise to discontinue waterboarding.


Mukasey has no more robes to hide behind as he did in New York as a federal judge. He’s in too deep now. Once he’s confirmed, Mukasey will be front and center at DOJ public hearings and meetings, justifying the Bush party line and policies so many Americans find abhorrent.

Outside the courtroom, things will be no easier for Mukasey. He’ll be meeting with a frustrated Congress through the wall of secrecy the Bush Administration erected when it refused to turn subpoenaed documents over to Congress. Documents that relate to the U.S. Attorney firings, the missing RNC e-mails and voter suppression. Mukasey is stepping into the Lion’s den and by all appearances, seems to accept his fate. I have an uneasy feeling that my future posts about Mukasey will be accompanied by a graphic showing him tethered to a ball and chain.

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    You're either with them or against them (none / 0) (#1)
    by po on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 03:45:38 PM EST
    The terrorist, that is.  And these guys just seem to love to wallow in the mud with the terrorists.  

    What about that compassionate conservatism? Those good Christian values -- thou shall not kill, turn the other cheek, all that nonsense, you know.

    What about they hate us for our freedoms; because we are a nation of laws, not men; because we do what's right, not just what's required.  

    Try to drown me, I'll tell you whatever the hell it is you want me to say.  Threaten my family with a real threat, same thing.  Just like the neocon philosophy, garbage in results in garbage out.  It's time to just say no.  

    MuKasey should not be confirmed and he should not be allowed a recess appointment.  If it means that the Senate can't recess until the next President is in office, so be it.  This little thing called the Constitution of the United States of America is at stake.  

    I told you so, six weeks ago, (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 04:17:33 PM EST
    in this diary, here:  "Mukasey must be blocked".

    But noooooo: You didn't want to listen.  A couple post-ers on other sites said "I've appeared before him and he's OK!", and everyone just kind of rolled over and said "Oh, and he's not (that icky) Ted Olson.  OK, then."


    The latter is the smarter, and therefore more dangerous version, of the former.

    Just to give you a little bit of what I wrote about Mukasey there - and this was before he started waffling on waterboarding (I'll add a little emphasis):

    3.  He was protecting his own power as a judge.

    That was the most important part of his ruling in Padilla, but not for the reasons too many would be thinking.  It's not that he has any great appreciation for preserving the power of the judiciary.  It's that he was more interested in exhibiting that he will preserve and wield the power of whatever office he holds.  

    Remember, Kyle Sampson, the pudgy mini-Rove ensconced in the DoJ?  ...  it was Kyle Sampson who also wrote an email advising use of the temporary appointment power for replacing wobbly US Attorneys with Loyal Bushies, in which he said:  "What's the use of having this power if we don't use it?"  Congress will take it away if they figure out why we wanted it.  

    This is about power, wielding it, and preserving it.  In the hands and office of the AG.

    To get to be a federal judge in NYC (or, for that matter, any large city in the US), one need not just be a darn good lawyer in a city full of darn good lawyers.  One must also be political - no surprise there - and one must be quite tough.  ... Think of a room full of Bruce Cutlers - trying to take over the courtroom.  Judges have to ride herd on that and exert their will to even move their cases.  ...  The personalities, authoritarian tendencies (necessary to keep in check the huge personalities of the lawyers appearing in the court) and the sheer deference afforded federal judges in large cities ... ensure that one of the primary personality traits those federal judges have is the ability to hold, wield and expand their power.  Had they not had that, they would have been roadkill on one of the Avenues long before they ever got appointed as a federal judge.

    Now, we are expected to believe that given the unprecedented expansion of power in the AG recently bestowed by the new FISA (among other things) and the rampant power grabs of this Admin, as yet un-undone, a judge (or any other person) whose entire career has been marked by exerting power will not use those powers?  Will not do everything in his ability to preserve those powers?

    And a person who is extremely close to the leading candidate of the Rethug party will not exert (or fail to exert) those powers to benefit that candidate or harm his opponent?

    And that this person would be appointed by this president to be the chief law enforcement officer of the United States even though we're supposed to believe he might be at variance with the philosophy of this President?

    Please.  That's why this quote in the article cracked me up:

    "They also fear that he'll cave to demands for a special prosecutor," the source said.

    He would never have been considered had he not wink-and-nodded that the idea of a special prosecutor, is off the table.

    No, if in this jungle Olson was the roaring lion stalking your rights, Mukasey is the snake in the grass that you'll never see until it's way too late.  But, they're both Bush-wielded pointed sticks in your eye.  For that reason, he should be blocked.  

    And, just to spice this up - consider (none / 0) (#3)
    by scribe on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 04:24:11 PM EST
    giving him and his patron Giuliani the power to quite legally have the FBI, NSA and who-knows-else pull off a black-bag job on your house, office, computer or whatever, and leave you without a remedy.

    It's in that new FISA bill.

    Burma and moral equivalence (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 08:29:58 PM EST
    Read about what actually happens in Burma before implying that there is an equivalence between the US and Burma.  This all reminds me of the people who said that the US and USSR were equally bad; the people who lived under Communist rule had a bit of a different view.  

    water boarding (none / 0) (#5)
    by jon87 on Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 01:41:48 PM EST
     Judge Mukasey claims that he doesn't know if waterboarding is torture or not, but he will look into the matter after he is confirmed and advise the President accordingly.

    Denying that waterboarding is torture is like calling the medieval practice of stretching suspects on the rack "height enhancement."  
    (See Award-winning Mike Luckovich's political cartoon on this concept in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11-2-07)