How should I know if something’s illegal? I’m just the Attorney General!

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Wednesday that while he would consider it torture if he underwent the harsh Central Intelligence Agency interrogation technique known as waterboarding, the practice was not necessarily illegal, and he would not rule out its use in the future.


“Would waterboarding be torture if it were done to you?” asked Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, glowering at Mr. Mukasey.

“I would feel that it was,” Mr. Mukasey acknowledged in the low monotone that he uses in virtually all public settings.

But the attorney general, a retired federal judge, would not be drawn into a larger conversation with Senator Kennedy or other Democrats over whether waterboarding might amount to torture if it was carried out on others, including American citizens held abroad.

Original DVD cover.

The legality of waterboarding, in which a prisoner experiences a sensation of drowning, has been come under fierce debate since the acknowledgment by Bush administration officials that a small number of prisoners who were members of Al Qaeda had been subjected to it after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Mukasey said in a letter delivered to the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night that he had been authorized by the White House to reveal that waterboarding was no longer being carried out and, for now, was considered an unapproved interrogation technique within the C.I.A. He repeated that assurance in his testimony Wednesday.


When the subject returned to waterboarding, there was especially tough questioning by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who had initially championed Mr. Mukasey’s nomination and has sometimes defended his performance when other Democrats have not.

The senator appeared exasperated by Mr. Mukasey’s refusal to say whether waterboarding was torture and should be outlawed, despite the attorney general’s statement during his confirmation hearings that he found the technique “repugnant.”

“I find it hard to understand how you personally, when asked for advice, would not be able to say that something that’s repugnant should be outlawed,” Mr. Schumer said. “You said it’s repugnant. I don’t understand how you can now say, Well, I have to ask a whole lot of other people.”

From CQ Politics:

Democrats on the panel said they were clearly disappointed. “I was hoping to see a little more evidence of independent judgment,” said Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

For instance, Mukasey flatly refused Wednesday to say whether a controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning, amounted to torture, but made clear he believes it could be appropriate in some scenarios.

“Given that waterboarding is not part of the current [CIA interrogation] program and may never be added to the current program, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to pass definitive judgment on the technique’s legality,” Mukasey told the committee.

Chairman Patrick J. Leahy , D-Vt., was among those who were dissatisfied with the answers. “It is not enough to say that waterboarding is not currently authorized,” he said. “Torture and illegality have no place in America.”

The senators came to the hearing already irritated by the release late Tuesday of a letter from Mukasey to the committee telegraphing his intention not to offer a definitive view on waterboarding’s legality.

In the hearing, Mukasey relied on the fact that the administration does not currently condone waterboarding to argue that it would be hypothetical for him to say whether it is torture.


The answer angered Sheldon Whitehouse , D-R.I. “The message you send, otherwise, is that ‘I was only following orders’ is a fine response,” he shot back.


Filed under 9/11, al-Qaeda, Charles Schumer, CIA, Congress, Democrats, Edward Kennedy, humor, Michael Mukasey, movies, parody, Patrick Leahy, politics, Russ Feingold, Senate Judiciary Committee, September 11, Sheldon Whitehouse, snark, Torture, waterboarding, Wordpress Political Blogs

9 responses to “How should I know if something’s illegal? I’m just the Attorney General!

  1. Friend of the court

    How long will the Congress keep asking the same liars the same questions? If Mukasey used these same BS answers and got confirmed, why change his mind now?

  2. Got a Grip

    I’m mystified, too, fotc. What is the point of quizzing him now? Do they really expect him to change his answer? And what are they going to do about it? They’ve managed to do nothing of consequence regarding this issue so far. They hired the man knowing he was a empty suit. Did they really expect him to magically change his ways under their rigorous questioning? The whole thing is incredibly disappointing….

  3. nonnie9999

    sometimes i think they just like to hear themselves talk. they want to go on the record with a pithy sentence or two that will get them some print in the papers or a sound byte on tv. but it’s still fun to put hats on them!

  4. Got a Grip

    Yes, it’s always good to play dress-up with the sniveling politicians. I also enjoy the addition of flames and I do so like to pry their skulls open to see what horrors are inside. I’m kind of gruesome that way. I think Schumer looks particularly fly in his little cap. Then again, you can’t beat a good porkpie hat for providing attitude…..

  5. they have already ok’d this guy – so what is the point — i know they want to look like they are making a point….. more vote pandering.

    by now we all know ANYTHING bush-related is creepy and nefarious, including “upstanding” people like mukasey and gates. after all their presence and acceptance of the jobs speaks volumes about how they feel about america..and bush’s policies

  6. nonnie9999

    i wonder what happens to guys like mukasey and gates. by all accounts, they were decent men. why do they sell their souls? what did mukasey have to gain by taking the ag job? he was already a judge. he certainly didn’t take the job because he loves the constitution or the law or this country. if he did, he would be going after those who so flagrantly broke the law, pissed on the constitution, and denigrated this country in the eyes of the world. why the undying loyalty to chimpy and cheney? are they being strongarmed or blackmailed? there has to be something going on behind the scenes. it’s very scary.

  7. Got a Grip

    I don’t have a clue about Mukasey, he’s a mystery to me, and might be worth digging into deeper. But Gates is another matter. He has no loyalty at all for Chimpy, but he was up to his eyeballs in Iran-Contra with Cheney, and Gates was as gungho, balls-to-the-wall CIA creepy as they come. His fingerprints are all over a lot of bad shit that went down in El Salvador and Nicaragua. What has surprised me about Gates is that despite his fealty to Cheney and “the cause”, he’s really quite competent at the job. He’s not the usual loyal but unstable idiotic toady that Chimpy selects to do his bidding, he has opinions that don’t always gibe with the proscribed dogma, and he’ll say so publicly. He would have been a far better first choice than Rumsfeld to try to pull off their schemes in Iraq. He’s intelligent, and he sees the troops as humans rather than pawns. He wouldn’t have tried to pull this crap off on the cheap as Rumsfeld did.

    Don’t get me wrong. He’s as evil as they come, but at least he’s competent evil…..

  8. good pernt, Grip

    anyone who sells their soul to work for Chimpy or any of Chimpy’s toadies has serious mental issues.

    Mukasey is a mystery – why he took this i cannot figure — it is only a year, he is knee deep in doo-doo and spends his time dodging and weaving questions. that being said he has to be one of the pod people if he is willing to adhere to the Bush code of conduct

  9. nonnie9999

    they are all mysteries to me, dcAp, especially mukasey. he joined the chimpy cabal late in the game, when it was blatantly obvious that it is a criminal organization. if you are worried about your legacy, this is not the team to join unless you plan on disinfecting the place. clearly, mukasey is going to allow them to continue their law-breaking. does it have something to do with his son?
    i just don’t get it. 😕

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