Michael Mukasey: Sanders Says No, Leahy Expresses Doubts

Would the real Michael Mukasey please stand up? After two days of Senate confirmation hearings on October 17 and 18, Senator Bernie Sanders says that he will not vote to confirm the Attorney General nominee, while Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says that he is unsure whether Mukasey will serve in the best interest of the country. Im particularly concerned about his views on torture, said Senator Leahy. If theres one thing that has hurt the United States worldwide it has been our seeming ambivalence on the question of tortureespecially if its the United States doing the torture. Leahy is referring specifically to Mukaseys stance on the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding. In this practice, the detainee is reclined in a chair, and a cloth is wrapped around his/her head, at which point water is continuously dumped over the persons head to simulate the feeling of drowning. Mr. Mukasey avoided making definitive statements regarding whether he considers waterboarding a form of torture. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee, I dont know what is involved in the technique. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional. The suggestion that Mr. Mukasey was not familiar with this techniquedespite the fact that it has been the topic of heated public debate for monthsand his unwillingness to state whether or not waterboarding amounts to torture drew heavy scorn from Leahy and other Senators. Now virtually everyone in the military would consider that torture, said Leahy. Senator Sanders observed, All over this world right now people are saying, What is going on the United States? When we deny people basic rights that are guaranteed under the Geneva Convention, I think we look bad in front of the whole world. Amongst a host of other individuals and organizations, Senator John McCain (R-AR) has been a particularly outspoken critic of the use of this technique by American personnel, as he was subjected to this method of interrogation during his internment in Vietnam. It is also interesting to note that after World War II, the United States prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding detainees. To get a clear answer to this and other questions, Senator Leahy sent Mr. Mukasey a letter on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee, outlining the concerns of the committee with regard to the nominees responses. Im not going to even bring [his confirmation] to a vote until I get some kind of definitive answer, said Senator Leahy. And his answer is going to very much determine what my vote isand, I suspect, what the vote of others is going to be. Senator Bernie Sanders already knows that his vote will be no, due to what he sees as the nominees disregard for civil liberties. Although on the first day of questioning Mr. Mukasey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would resign if the White House asked him to support any action which he judged to be unconstitutional, on the second day he defended expansive executive privilege. When asked if the President is free to break a law enacted by Congress, Mr. Mukasey replied, That would have to depend on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country. Many are therefore concerned that Mr. Mukasey will continue to support the warrantless wiretapping programs, controversial interrogation techniques and the trial of detainees by military commissions that the Bush administration has institutionalizedor attempted to institutionalizein the War on Terrorism. Mr. Mukasey has not assured me that he will be a defender of our constitutional rights which is what an Attorney General has got to be, said Senator Sanders. I want to make sure that we have an attorney general who can explain to the president what the constitution is all about. Despite the doubts raised by Vermonts senators, popular opinion still indicates that Mr. Mukasey will be overwhelmingly confirmed.

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