Mukasey Refuses to Denounce Water-Boarding as Torture and Forces Democrats into Another Crisis of Principle

In his confirmation hearing, Judge Mukasey has refused to say whether a well-known torture technique is indeed torture. If Democrats are serious about demanding a return to the rule of law, it is an issue that should compel Senators to withhold their votes in confirmation.

Mukasey repeatedly stated that torture is unconstitutional — not a particularly impressive statement. However, when pressed on water-boarding, Mukasey sounded much like his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. He was repeatedly asked about waterboarding and simply repeated that “If it is torture as defined by the Constitution, or defined by constitutional standards, it can’t be authorized.”

However, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. came back to the subject and asked “Is waterboarding constitutional?” pressed Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. “It either is or it isn’t.”

Mukasey said that he doesn’t know what’s involved in the technique.

There are only one of two possibilities in this answer — neither is very comforting. First, Mukasey could be the most uninformed lawyer in America. Waterboarding has been the center of a debate for years over torture. It is a well defined form of torture under international law and it is well-known to have been used by the United States. To say that he does not know what is involved in the techinque is to claim the same type of incompetence or ignorance that Gonzales repeatedly used to avoid answering questions about unlawful conduct.

The second possibility is that Mukasey is lying. It is hard to imagine that he does not know what is involved in this technique and if he does, he has shown a shocking degree of dishonesty. The choice is hardly promising: shocking ignorance or dishonesty. Either way, he should not be confirmed without answering this question clearly by saying that it is torture as defined by international law and would be unconstituitonal.

Once again, the problem remains the democrats. Democrats have virtually promised to confirm Mukasey and desperately want to avoide a fight. Yet, on the most basic issue of human rights, Mukasey is refusing to stand squarely against torture. If confirmed, the Democrats will turn torture into a mere point of disagreement rather than a core element to the qualifications of this nominee. For the full story, click here