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January 30, 2008

Another Waterboarding Hearing

Attorney General Michael Mukasey will be meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee today where he will most certainly be asked about waterboarding again. Yesterday, he sent a letter to the committee chairman declaring that he would not publicly comment on the legality of waterboarding. That won't stop the hard-working senators from grandstanding tomorrow.

The letter came as a response to senators' demands for Mukasey to clarify whether the interrogation tactic known as waterboarding should be banned by the United States.


Mukasey "seems constitutionally incapable of rendering judgment on a simple and straightforward legal question," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who sits on the committee, said in a statement late Tuesday. "During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Mukasey promised repeatedly to end the stonewalling. ... Let's hope he is more forthcoming in his testimony than he was in his letter."

I've highlighted the word "should" above because it was my impression that Congress is free to explicitly outlaw waterboarding if it wants to. I didn't realize that it had delegated policy-making authority to the Department of Justice so as to avoid responsibility on the issue, but I understand it. Many congressional Democrats would face sharp opposition from constituents concerned about their soft-on-terrorism policies.

Keep in mind that waterboarding has not been used by the CIA since 2003 and has been prohibited by the CIA and the military since at least 2006. The CIA has only waterboarded three people. Congressional Democrats want the Attorney General to declare that waterboarding is currently illegal and also illegal back when it was used so that they and their friends at the ACLU can move on to the next step: taking apart our intelligence apparatus piece by piece.

[Speaking of waterboarding (and this really is in poor taste, so I apologize), have you ever been put in a neck brace and then strapped to a backboard in the rain? It's not as much fun as you would think with a CHP officer grilling you. As I was describing my experience to family today, out popped a joking "You were waterboarded!" from my sweet, little ol' mother. If my ma is ready to kid about interrogation techniques, congressional Democrats really should just give up on the topic.]

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 06:44 AM

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