Waterboarding Justice

Maybe it's to be expected that a Bush Administration nominee for Attorney General refuses to say whether waterboarding--an interrogation tactic that simulates drowing and that has been prosecuted as torture in US courts since the Spanish-American war--is torture.

Michael Mukasey's elaborate tap dance of oral and written testimony, orchestrated by the White House, was clearly designed to avoid putting the CIA, other US interrogators and those at the very highest line of command in this Administration (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington & others) in legal jeopardy. Just remember that the Washington Post reported-- over a year ago-- that CIA and others involved in interrogations were seeking legal counsel. In deciding to vote for Mukasey's nomination, Senators Schumer and Feinstein are condoning waterboarding and damaging our values, our international relations and the safety of our own soldiers if captured.

Instead of following the lead of all the Democratic Senators running for President, and four on the Judiciary Committee, Schumer broke ranks and stated that "The best we can hope for is someone who will rebuild the Justice Department and remain independent, even when pressured by this Administration."

It seems pretty clear from his refusal to state that waterboarding constitutes torture -- in order to protect those who have acted criminally-- if confirmed, Judge Mukasey would continue to act as a team player, helping to cover up issues of torture, rather than as an independent enforcer of the nation's laws.

There is still time to tell Senators Schumer and Feinstein that torture is un-American and unacceptable. The Washington office phone numbers for the Senators are: Feinstein: (202) 224-3841 and Schumer (202) 224-8542. If they do vote to confirm Mukasey, do not contribute to the DSCC which Schumer heads. Instead, select those Senators running in '08 who stand against torture, in defense of the constitution and rule of law, and donate generously to them.

And support groups like the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Freedom Campaign--which are working to end torture. It is time we support defenders not subverters of our Constitution--and restore the rule of law, decency, dignity and human security to our country and the world.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

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