Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘Mukasey

More on the Democratic “opposition” to Mukasey

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Another comment:

Mr. Smith has left Washington and Mr. Orwell has arrived.

First, let’s be crystal-clear about how the Democrats threw a vote they would have won on Michael Mukasey and torture and let’s be clear about why this happened.

Others and I were privately advocating a filibuster against Mukasey’s attorney general confirmation bid, and would have needed 41 votes to prevail. At a minimum the filibuster could have forced Bush to accept a waterboarding and torture ban as a condition of confirmation.

Democrats had 40 votes against confirmation last night plus the four presidential candidates who did not vote. Democrats had 43 or 44 “no” votes adding the presidential candidates and, had these senators had the conviction to filibuster, would have won.

As of Thursday morning the vote would have been taken next week with some talk of delay until December. Once it became apparent that there were 43 to 44 “no” votes if the presidential candidates were present, with the weekend coming to increase pressure, the vote was jammed through late at night, a week ahead of schedule.

Of course, by late last night, the BBC World Service was correctly broadcasting to the world that the Senate had confirmed Mukasey with all of the objections to his position on torture that were stated, but surrendered, yet again, by Democrats.

George Washington spoke with fury against torture. Commanders of every military service, throughout every generation of Americans, during every war ever fought, were adamantly against torture. Military JAG lawyers have defied higher authorities in opposition to torture. Gen. Taguba defied higher authorities to courageously speak out against the continuing cover-up of Abu Ghraib.

Yet the Senate’s contribution to our troops on Veterans Day is to create more harm for them, as messages are beamed to the world, that even the Democratic Senate cannot make a stand against torture, even when 70 percent of America agrees, even when they had the votes to win.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of the leading neoconservative advocates of the catastrophic Iraq war, who only recently succeeded in defining the Senate’s position on Iran, is now attacking Democrats for having too much principle, and fighting too hard.

What is incredible about Lieberman is his lack of modesty considering how much carnage, chaos and bloodshed has resulted from his catastrophically bad judgment on Iraq and his arrogance in attacking those who have been the most right.

Yesterday was a new low for Democrats, who surrendered the fight they would have won and were morally obligated to make, on torture, and for Lieberman, who attacks Democrats for being too strong, at the exact moment of their weakest of many surrenders.

Mr. Smith has left Washington, George Orwell has arrived, and 70 percent of the nation must now consider what to do, with Washington in such overwhelming disrepute directed at both sides of the aisle.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2007 at 3:16 pm

Another who underwent waterboarding calls it torture

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It really seems pretty clear that waterboarding is torture—clear, that is, to all but a few: Cheney, Fox News, Bush, Judge Mukasey, …  From Dan Froomkin today:

Josh White writes in The Washington Post: “A former Navy survival instructor subjected to waterboarding as part of his military training told Congress yesterday that the controversial tactic should plainly be considered torture and that such a method was never intended for use by U.S. interrogators because it is a relic of abusive totalitarian governments.

“Malcolm Wrightson Nance, a counterterrorism specialist who taught at the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school in California, likened waterboarding to drowning and said those who experience it will say or do anything to make it stop, rendering the information they give nearly useless. . . .

“Unlike attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey, who called the technique repugnant but declined to say whether it is torture, Nance said unequivocally that waterboarding is a long-standing form of torture used by history’s most brutal governments, including those of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, North Korea, Iraq, the Soviet Union and the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia.”

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2007 at 11:39 am

Questions Mukasey should be asked

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Good FindLaw article, though the Committee did not, in fact, ask the suggested questions:

… Committee members should ask a number of questions regarding Mukasey before voting.

The Overarching Issue: Executive Power

The overarching issue that has seemed to concern Senators the most is how much the Bush Administration has concentrated authority in the Executive Branch. For example, the Administration unilaterally established procedures for interrogating suspected terrorists and a domestic surveillance program without warrants issued by federal judges, in ostensible violation of the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

When senators asked Mukasey at the hearings whether the chief executive must obey federal laws, he responded: “That would have to depend on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country.” Senators must decide whether Mukasey believes this authority trumps the president’s duty to obey a law, particularly in light of the fact that the Constitution empowers Congress to “provide for the common defense.” Senators also ought to consult the Supreme Court’s Youngstown decision, which found unconstitutional President Harry Truman’s seizure of U.S. steel mills to defend the nation in the Korean War precisely because the chief executive had disobeyed federal laws. In the end, Senators must ascertain whether, in their view, Mukasey perceives authority’s concentration in the Executive as an impediment to constitutional governance and to legislative prerogatives or fully supports the Administration’s stunningly broad claim of authority.

Another Crucial Issue: Interrogation Techniques

The questions raised by certain interrogation techniques appear most salient for numerous Senators. The Bush Administration has advocated and seemingly employed harsh interrogation procedures with suspected terrorists since September 11. A number of Committee members find that these measures constitute, or resemble, torture and are morally suspect, ineffective and counter-productive, as their use may encourage America’s enemies to deploy analogous practices.

When Senators questioned Judge Mukasey about waterboarding, he responded: “I don’t know what’s involved in the technique. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.” When responding to written questions, the nominee said he found the procedure “repugnant,” but Mukasey refused to state whether he believed that it was illegal. The nominee’s major reason for being unresponsive was that he lacked relevant information to decide about legality. Some observers, including Administration officials, have expressed concern about Mukasey’s stating that waterboarding is illegal because that statement could be used in subsequent litigation against U.S. interrogators.

Senators must determine whether this concern reflects a true threat, whether Congress has already outlawed waterboarding, and whether Mukasey’s unresponsiveness suggests that he would be overly solicitous of Executive Branch perspectives and interrogation techniques in general, and the claimed power to use waterboarding specifically.

A Third Key Issue: Domestic Surveillance

Another issue which has troubled numerous Senators is President Bush’s 2005 revelation that the NSA had been undertaking domestic surveillance absent court-issued warrants required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Senators have been concerned that this action invades privacy, while Congress recently approved surveillance, with some limitations, for a half year. Senators must ask themselves how Mukasey would advise the Chief Executive and Congress to balance concerns for national security and civil liberties, as well as executive and legislative power, in this context.

Senators have also been concerned about DOJ’s politicization, which was, under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, exemplified by many U.S. Attorneys’ dismissal for seemingly political reasons. DOJ and the 93 U.S. Attorney Offices have long operated with insufficient leadership, while the considerations above have undermined professionalism and morale. Senators must ask themselves whether, and if so, exactly how, Mukasey will restore professionalism and depoliticize DOJ.

Mukasey is a well-qualified nominee. Yet Senators must carefully consider whether, on these crucial issues, his views sufficiently reflect our Constitutional order.

Written by Leisureguy

7 November 2007 at 2:54 pm

Wow! Impressive call for hold on Mukasey

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From Larry Johnson’s Web site (LJ is a former CIA official). Look at who signed this (at the end).

A group of distinguished intelligence and military officers, diplomats, and law enforcement professionals delivered an urgent message this morning to the chairman and the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, calling on them to hold the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey until he takes a clear position on the legality of waterboarding.

Their message strongly endorses the view of former judge advocates general that waterboarding “is inhumane, is torture, is illegal.” The intelligence veterans added it is also a notoriously unreliable way to acquire accurate information.

They noted that the factors cited by the president and Mukasey as obstacles to his giving an opinion on waterboarding can be easily solved by briefing Mukasey on waterboarding and on C.I.A. interrogation methods.

The intelligence veterans noted that during their careers they frequently had to walk a thin line between morality and expediency, all the while doing their best to abide by the values the majority of Americans have held in common over the years. They appealed to Senators Pat Leahy and Arlen Specter to rise to the occasion and discharge their responsibility to defend those same values.

THE MEMORANDUM FOLLOWS. OF NOTE: YOU MAY REPRINT THIS MEMORANDUM AT ANY BLOG OR SITE, IN FULL, AND WITH PROPER ATTRIBUTION AND A LINK BACK TO No Quarter.

MEMORANDUM FOR: Chairman and Ranking Member Senate Committee on the Judiciary

FROM: Former U.S. Intelligence Officers

SUBJECT: Nomination of Michael Mukasey for Attorney General

Dear Senators Leahy and Specter,

Values that are extremely important to us as former intelligence officers are at stake in your committee’s confirmation deliberations on Judge Michael Mukasey. With hundreds of years of service in sensitive national security activities behind us, we are deeply concerned that your committee may move his nomination to the full Senate without insisting that Mukasey declare himself on whether he believes the practice of waterboarding is legal.

We feel this more acutely than most others, for…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2007 at 8:22 pm

Dianne Feinstein: shameless

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Dianne Feinstein says that she considers waterboarding to be torture. She also will vote to confirm Judge Mukasey, who somehow cannot yet decide, until he gets his marching orders from Bush, whether waterboarding is torture or not (although people have been convicted and sent to prison for torturing prisoners by waterboarding).

So, it follows that Dianne Feinstein approves of the US engaging in torture, and will take steps to ensure that the US gets an Attorney General who will allow the torture to continue.

Written by Leisureguy

3 November 2007 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

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Doing my bit

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I just called Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office pleading that she vote against moving forward on Judge Mukasey’s nomination, given that Mukasey doesn’t seem to have any serious problems with torture—waterboarding in particular. I was told that Senator Feinstein firmly believes that waterboarding is torture—and also that she is undecided about her vote in Committee on Mukasey. I said that I hoped she would stop doing “Lieberman votes” and take a stand with the Democratic Party for a change. We’ll see. Next Tuesday is the vote. Her number: (202) 224-3841.

Written by Leisureguy

1 November 2007 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Tagged with ,

For Judge Mukasey: helpful info on waterboarding

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You’ll recall that Mukasey doesn’t know whether waterboarding is torture or not. This may help:

George Bush’s nomination of Michael Mukasey for U.S. attorney general — once thought to be smooth sailing — is experiencing a bit of turbulence. The problem is, Mukasey can’t bring himself to say whether or not waterboarding is torture:

During his confirmation hearings earlier this month, Mukasey said he believes torture violates the Constitution, but he refused to be pinned down on whether he believes specific interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, are constitutional.

“I don’t know what’s involved in the techniques. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional,” he said.

But after World War II, the United States government was quite clear about the fact that waterboarding was torture, at least when it was done to U.S. citizens:

[In] 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

“Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. “We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II,” he sai

Mukasey’s non-answer has raised doubts among Democrats, and even some Republicans, on the Senate Judiciary Committee:

[The] Democrats on the committee signed a joint letter to Mukasey, making sure that he knew what’s involved, and demanded an answer to the question as to whether waterboarding is torture.

Then two days later, the doubts grew louder. Two key Democrats, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT ) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) both said publicly that their votes depended on Mukasey’s answer to the waterboarding question.

Then it was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who saw an opening after Rudy Giuliani refused to call waterboarding torture (”It depends on who does it.”). Most certainly it’s torture, McCain said. When pressed, he stopped short of saying that he would oppose Mukasey’s nomination if he didn’t say the same, but he added to the chorus of those who professed to be interested in what Mukasey’s answer to follow-up questions will be.

Yesterday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said that if Mukasey “does not believe that waterboarding is illegal, then that would really put doubts in my own mind.”

Rep. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has also thrown in his lot of doubts and concerns.

Of course, if the past is a guide, Mukasey will easily win nomination, and nearly all these senators who have expressed concern will vote for him.

Waterboarding has become an isssue because the Bush White House signed off on it as an interrogation technique — and thus moved the United States into the company of pariah states that permit torture — after the 9/11 attacks.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2007 at 10:45 am

Waterboarding is torture

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Mukasey might want to read this post by this guy. The post begins:

I’d like to digress from my usual analysis of insurgent strategy and tactics to speak out on an issue of grave importance to Small Wars Journal readers. We, as a nation, are having a crisis of honor.

Last week the Attorney General nominee Judge Michael Mukasey refused to define waterboarding terror suspects as torture. On the same day MSNBC television pundit and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough quickly spoke out in its favor. On his morning television broadcast, he asserted, without any basis in fact, that the efficacy of the waterboard a viable tool to be sued on Al Qaeda suspects.

Scarborough said, “For those who don’t know, waterboarding is what we did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is the Al Qaeda number two guy that planned 9/11. And he talked …” He then speculated that “If you ask Americans whether they think it’s okay for us to waterboard in a controlled environment … 90% of Americans will say ‘yes.’” Sensing that what he was saying sounded extreme, he then claimed he did not support torture but that waterboarding was debatable as a technique: “You know, that’s the debate. Is waterboarding torture? … I don’t want the United States to engage in the type of torture that [Senator] John McCain had to endure.”

In fact, waterboarding is just the type of torture then Lt. Commander John McCain had to endure at the hands of the North Vietnamese. As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.

The carnival-like he-said, she-said of the legality of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques has become a form of doublespeak worthy of Catch-22. Having been subjected to them all, I know these techniques, if in fact they are actually being used, are not dangerous when applied in training for short periods. However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – it is torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only “shock the conscience” as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become? Because at this juncture, after Abu Ghraieb and other undignified exposed incidents of murder and torture, we appear to have become no better than our opponents.

With regards to the waterboard, I want to set the record straight so the apologists can finally embrace the fact that they condone and encourage torture.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2007 at 10:48 am

Another Attorney General (nominee) who allows torture

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He allows it by saying that it’s not torture, that he doesn’t know whether it’s torture or not, or some other device to allow it:

Throughout his nomination hearings, Attorney General nominee Mike Mukasey has consistently denounced the use of torture. Torture is “antithetical to what this country stands for,” he said yesterday. “I would be uncomfortable with any evidence used in trial that is coerced,” he added.

But under questioning from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today, Mukasey refused to classify the practice of waterboarding — in which a suspect has water poured over his face to simulate drowning — as unconstitutional, repeatedly claiming it depends on how one defines “torture”:

MUKASEY: If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional. […]

WHITEHOUSE: If it’s torture. That’s a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn’t. Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding…is constitutional?

MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: I’m very disappointed in that answer. I think it is purely semantic.

MUKASEY: I’m sorry.

Mukasey claimed that he doesn’t “know what’s involved in the technique” of waterboarding. But as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has pointed out, there’s no question that waterboarding is torture: “[T]o make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture.”

Mukasey’s position also puts him at odds with CIA director Michael Hayden, who has reportedly banned waterboarding from CIA terror interrogations.

UPDATE: Marty Lederman at Balkinization comments, “It’s really remarkable how far we have fallen when a jurist of Judge Mukasey’s caliber cannot answer such questions without hesitation.”

UPDATE II: Human Rights First observes that Mukasey’s statements imply “that forms of coercive interrogation which violate Common Article 3 may be practiced by government agencies, including the C.I.A. ”

And from John Cole at Balloon Juice:

I am no legal scholar, but I just don’t understand how someone trying to get the job as Attorney General can get away with saying things like this in his confirmation hearing:

After some legal argumentation, Mukasey replied, essentially, that going outside a statute is an extreme step, and implied that he’ll take steps to ensure that “push doesn’t come to shove” between presidential authority and statutory limitation. But he left the door open for at least some nebulous presidential power that trumps congressional attempts at limitation.

Why do we even have statutes anymore if they are just for guidance?

Written by Leisureguy

18 October 2007 at 3:58 pm

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