Mukaseys Tap Dance On Torture: Two Months Later, Still Can’t Say If Waterboarding Is Illegal

Throughout his October confirmation hearings, Attorney General Mike Mukasey denounced the use of torture, stating that it is “antithetical to what this country stands for.”

But when it came to declaring the practice of waterboarding torture, Mukasey hedged. “I don’t know what’s involved in waterboarding,” he told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), arguing he first needed to be “read into” the administration’s program. Mukasey pledged to study the matter and said he would order a “review” after being confirmed:

If, after such a review, I determine that any technique is unlawful, I will not hesitate to so advise the president and will rescind or correct any legal opinion of the Department of Justice that supports the use of the technique.

After the confirmation, Senators continued to press Mukasey on the issue, but he refused to be rushed into deciding whether he considers waterboarding torture without a full “review.” Today, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mukasey said he has “been read into the program” but suggested that he still hasn’t come to a firm conclusion:

Yes, I’ve been read into the program, but that’s part of a process. I said I would look at the program. Look at the letters. And give my answers. I haven’t yet figured out precisely when and precisely how. I understand that the time is coming.

Today, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and nine other Senate Judiciary Commitee members urged Mukasey to decide his position. “It has been over two months since then, ample time for you to study this issue and reach a conclusion,” they wrote. The committee members noted that on November 27, “State Department Legal Advisor John Bellinger said you were giving ‘high priority’ to reviewing interrogation techniques.”


With only 12 months left in office, Mukasey is creating the perception that he’s trying to run out the clock to avoid taking a stand on torture.

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