Democratic support for attorney general-designate Michael Mukasey continued to dwindle this week over his refusal to take a stand on the legality of waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique reportedly used by the CIA on high-level terrorism suspects. A Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation vote scheduled for next week is expected to be closer than originally anticipated, but the Bush administration still expects Mukasey to be confirmed. “No one is ready to declare it DOA,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
What the commentators said
Mukasey called waterboarding “repugnant” in a letter to Democrats this week, said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration), but that was just a “crass dodge.” Waterboarding—dunking terror suspects in water to make them think they’re drowning—is torture, plain and simple. “Would Mr. Mukasey approve of a foreign jailer using waterboarding on an American soldier?”
Senators don’t have any qualms about “coercive interrogation,” said National Review Online in an editorial, as long as they’re the ones doing the interrogating. First they said they wanted an “independent” attorney general, and now they’re insisting that Mukasey “roll over” and tell them what they want to hear about waterboarding. The U.S. uses this method on its own military and intelligence operatives to teach them “interrogation-resistance.” It’s “highly unpleasant,” but it’s “doubtful” that it would cross the “legal threshold of torture.”
“Congress can do more than sputter about this,” said the Charlotte, N.C., Observer in an editorial. “It can enact a law saying all U.S. interrogations must observe the limits imposed by the Army Field Manual. That would make the law clear and put some credibility in the Bush administration's assertion that the United States does not torture.”