The Michael Mukasey Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing has demonstrated that Mukasey cannot be relied upon to function independently as U.S. Attorney General. Nevertheless, Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee seem so thrilled that Mukasey is not Alberto Gonzales that they're willing to vote for him even though he's another loyal Bushie.
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, backed down on his promise to hold up the confirmation hearing until the administration turned over material his committee had requested regarding several investigations. Leahy said of Mukasey after the hearing, "He's at least answered the questions, which is better than his predecessor. He's going to be different than Gonzales on all the issues, I think. He will certainly be better than Gonzales on morale."
But saying that Mukasey compares favorably to Alberto Gonzales is faint praise for the nominee. The former Attorney General resigned during a firestorm of criticism about his U.S. Attorney purges, and his repeated claims of memory loss when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mukasey doesn't seem to have a memory problem; he relied on a different excuse for dodging the Senators' hard questions: he hasn't been "read in on" the details of Bush policies, such as interrogation techniques, or the "Terrorist Surveillance Program." Mukasey claims he doesn't know what water boarding is, so he can't say if it constitutes torture. Say what? Mukasey's claimed ignorance of water boarding is about as credible as his predecessor's convenient claims of amnesia. Rear Adm. John Hutson (USN Ret.) testified at the confirmation hearing, "Other than, perhaps the rack and thumbscrews, water boarding is the most iconic example of torture in history. It was devised, I believe, in the Spanish inquisition. It has been repudiated for centuries."
Mukasey made the incredible assertions that "we do not torture" and "I don't think people are mistreated" at Guantánamo. The main problem he sees with Guantánamo is that "nobody owns it," that is, there is jurisdictional overlap between the Justice and Defense Departments. Mukasey callously told Sen. Dick Durbin before the hearings that Guantánamo was used as a "fright wig," and after all, detainees receive "three hots and a cot, health care better than many Americans, and taxpayer-funded Korans."
The rest of us haven't been "read in on"- the classified details either. But we know that torture and inhuman treatment is Bush policy in spite of the fact it's illegal. The 2005 Department of Justice memos recently leaked to the New York Times say the government is engaging in water boarding, head slapping and exposing people to frigid temperatures, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody is tantamount to torture, and the U.N. Human Rights Commission concluded that force feeding Guantánamo prisoners amounts to torture. We also know that Bush spied on Americans without warrants in spite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because he and Gonzales admitted it. And we know what water boarding is.