Friday, October 19, 2007

In the second day of hearings for AG nominee Mukasey, someone finally got around to asking him whether simulated drowning was torture. He was willing to say that if it was torture, then it shouldn't be authorized, but repeatedly refused to venture an opinion as to whether it was or it wasn't.

One blogger's response: "Of course it's torture, you stupid sack of shit." But that's, well... not only indelicate, but ungenerous as well. Perhaps Mukasey really does have trouble making up his mind. In which case, I propose a simple remedy: he could just try it out, and judge for himself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We have a new nominee for attorney general. And on the subject of torture (we're long past caring about minor bagatelles like, say, habeas corpus), he was happy to tell Congressional Democrats what he knew they wanted to hear:

He criticized a Justice Department legal opinion issued early in the administration, and since rescinded, that allowed harsh interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects. “It was a mistake,” he said. “It was unnecessary.”

Well, to a point.

The general administration line, you'll recall, is that their "interrogation techniques" --- sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, extreme cold, shackling prisoners into "stress positions" that take their shoulders halfway out of their sockets, simulated drowning, or whatever else happens to amuse them at the moment --- aren't actually torture according to American law, and contravene no ban. (The long-standing national and international jurisprudence to the contrary is apparently somehow mistaken). But, when it came to two recently uncovered memos which stated this position, perhaps, a bit more clearly than they had heretofore in public, Mukasey demurred:

Mr. Mukasey declined to discuss recent news reports that the Justice Department, after rescinding the original opinion on harsh interrogation techniques, produced two secret legal opinions in 2005 that authorized similar techniques in terrorism cases.

He said he could not comment on the later memorandums because he had not read them; he said he intended to review them early in his tenure at the Justice Department.

Now, if the Democratic Congressional leadership wanted to make at least a token gesture of actual concern for the issue, to demonstrate that they were willing to do more about it than just blow hot air, then they would be perfectly within their rights to ask him to review the damn things now, and come back when he's prepared to answer questions about them.

Although Mr. Mukasey disappointed Democrats by not answering many questions about those polices, senators from both parties suggested at the end of a day of testimony that he was all but certain to be confirmed.

Well, so much for that.

I would have preferred to quote an actual transcript of Mukasey's remarks, but while those sorts of things have been easy to find on line for earlier Congressional hearings, I couldn't dig one up for this one. Odd, that...