The White House has issued a defense of Judge Mukasey’s presumably false testimony that he was unaware of the techniques used in waterboarding — the favorite form of torture employed by the CIA. White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said Mr. Mukasey could not answer because “he has not been read into classified intelligence programs, and he won’t be read in until he is confirmed as attorney general.” Various surrogates for the Administration have taken up this spin on blogs and radio shows. This defense is as obviously dishonest as Mukasey’s testimony appears false.
Mukasey was NOT asked about whether the United States has engaged in waterboarding. He was asked if waterboarding is torture — a fact already established under the law. Moreover, he was then read a description of waterboarding and asked if it constituted torture — not whether it was the act committed by the government. This is akin to asking Mukasey how he defines acts of discrimination or certain criminality — issues that go to the heart of his qualifications. The government may have committed such acts of discrimiation or criminality, but was not the question.
For democrats, the question is not just whether they will stand their ground and fight against torture in his nomination, but whether they consider false testimony should be a barrier to a person who must prosecute people for false statements under oath or to Congress.