Mukasey's Swearing In

He talks a good game.

"My job involves not only an oath, but also a pledge, which I now give you," Mukasey told the 110,000 Justice employees nationwide, some of whom watched on the department's internal TV system.

"And that is to use all of the strength of mind and body that I have to help you to continue to protect the freedom and the security of the people of this country, and their civil rights and liberties, through the neutral and evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it."

His announcement yesterday that security clearances were granted to continue the stalled OPR investigation into warrantless wiretapping was a good sign.

Mukasey has 14 months to repair the damage done to the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales. While I don't think he'll be the President's errand boy, I'm also not getting my hopes up that he'll have the same definition of "civil rights and liberties" as the rest of us -- particularly when it comes to the "war on terror."

But, he's off to a good start.

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    WSWS on impotence and hypocrisy of the Democrats (none / 0) (#1)
    by Andreas on Wed Nov 14, 2007 at 01:55:05 PM EST
    The WSWS writes:

    The confirmation vote marked the completion of the Senate Democrats' capitulation to the Bush administration's torture policy, as well as its assertion of virtually unlimited executive power in any area of policy related to "national security."

    ... It is hard to decide which was more revolting, the impotence of the Democrats who cast their votes against Mukasey, or the hypocrisy of those who argued in his favor, despite admitting that he had clearly signaled that the Bush administration would continue its torture policy.

    Senate confirms Mukasey as attorney general

    By Patrick Martin, 10 November 2007

    Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. (none / 0) (#2)
    by Edger on Wed Nov 14, 2007 at 09:14:27 PM EST
    Beyond Mukasey's Confirmation, White House Liability Issues Loom Large
    By Elizabeth Holtzman, t r u t h o u t | OpEd
    Tuesday 13 November 2007

    We now know that the reason Mr. Mukasey refused to acknowledge that waterboarding meets the legal definition of torture, or at the very least cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, clearly had nothing to do with not being briefed about the procedure... The real reason, as mainstream news analysts now acknowledge, was that publicly admitting waterboarding is torture or cruel and inhuman would have put the president in jeopardy of criminal charges.
    The War Crimes Act of 1996 makes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees a violation of the Geneva Conventions and a federal crime. In addition, a 1994 law, 18 USC Section 2340 (a), makes it a federal crime to engage in torture outside the US, and it also applies to those who conspire with (or aid and abet or order) torture outside the US. Both statutes apply to any US national, including the president, the vice president and other top officials, as well as subordinates, such as CIA officers or other US personnel. If the president ordered, directed or authorized waterboarding or other forms of torture or mistreatment, he may have violated these laws. They carry the death penalty in cases where the victim dies. In such cases there is no statute of limitations, so the president could be subject to prosecution for the rest of his life.
    In a February 2002 memo, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales warned President Bush about exposure to criminal liability under the War Crimes Act, mentioning the danger that future independent counsels or prosecutors might seek to enforce the law (they generally prosecute top government officials, including presidents). He therefore recommended opting out of the Geneva Conventions, famously calling them "obsolete." His theory was that if the Conventions didn't apply, then the War Crimes Act wouldn't apply, so no prosecutions could be brought. The president accepted Gonzales's theory and suspended the Conventions' protections for suspected al-Qaeda detainees.
    Still, holes remain in the legal barricades the Bush administration has tried to erect around itself. Even if immunity from prosecution under the War Crimes Act stands, it only applies through 2006, not for mistreatment of detainees after that. And the 1994 anti-torture law applies throughout.

    As attorney general, Mr. Mukasey can try to plug these holes. He may shield President Bush and others from criminal liability; he may resist appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate White House actions. But he cannot, as the 2002 Gonzales memo recognized, tie the hands of future prosecutors. In lethal cases, our anti-torture laws have no statute of limitations. Sooner or later, those who violated US law will be held accountable to them, if not by Mukasey, then by some future AG.