On CBS’ Face The Nation this past Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) commented on Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey’s refusal to classify waterboarding as torture, saying that he is “convinced” the technique “is clearly illegal under domestic and international law.”
“I hope he will give a direct answer to that question” and “embrace” the view that it is torture, said Graham:
I am urging him that he needs to come forward. … I don’t think you have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates Geneva Convention common article three, the War Crimes statutes, and many other statutes that are in place. So I do hope that he will embrace that.
Graham changed his tune yesterday, however, after Mukasey again refused to explicitly say whether he believed the interrogation technique was torture, instead calling it a “hypothetical.” Graham said in interviews that he was “heartened” by Mukasey’s letter and that it “helped his cause“:
I think Judge Mukasey did himself some good with this letter. He helped his cause with me.
As CNN’s Ed Henry pointed out yesterday, with the careful wording of his letter, Mukasey “essentially” dodged “the question of whether legally waterboarding is torture.” Instead, his letter said only that it was “over the line” and “repugnant” on “a personal basis.”
Watch an example of Mukasey’s “hypothetical” technique here.
I think we need extensive assurances. But as I carefully read Judge Mukasey’s letter, I don’t know how much more he could say than what he has said, considering the exposure to people in collateral circumstances and considering the impossibility of predicting what may be faced with respect to a future potential danger, if the so-called ticking bomb hypothetical were to reach fruition.
UPDATE II: Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced today that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its vote on Mukasey on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
UPDATE III: “A senior Senate Democrat” told the Hill that “Mukasey’s nomination had no chance of passing the Judiciary Committee” if he doesn’t classify waterboarding as torture.