Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Crystal Ball was Right on Mukasey and Waterboarding

The Inquisition was full of good ideas.

A few months ago I gazed into my crystal ball and wrote the following:

Sadly the reality is that no AG under Bush will declare waterboarding illegal. You guys ever read the Ironic Times? They put it well:

"Bush Pick for Attorney General Headed for Confirmation Mukasey last piece in puzzle keeping Bush, Cheney from firing squad."

No AG picked by Bush is going to turn around and call Bush a criminal.

That was quite the limb I went out on. I'm very brave. Today I learned that my crystal ball is in fine working order.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Tuesday he will refuse to publicly say whether the interrogation tactic known as waterboarding is illegal, digging in against critics who want the Bush administration to define it as torture.

I haven't been this shocked since the sun rose this morning.

Mukasey had promised to report on the legality of waterboarding at his confirmation hearing. Or did he?

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 water-boarding, which is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their faces and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning -- is that 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.
I want to pin you down and ask you, sir, if you would pledge to undertake some formal process of review and evaluation of those internal protocols, norms and practices so that you get a report from experienced people on what needs to be repaired.

MUKASEY: I'm going to pledge to undertake to review the practices. I am going to pledge to consult people both inside and outside the department in the course of that.

Convening a formal process is something I can't commit to now. If it is necessary, and if I find that the results of inquiry and consultation don't yield a satisfactory result, I will consider that.

WHITEHOUSE: Will you agree to keep me informed of your activities in this area?

MUKASEY: I will.

That's some clever wordsmithing by Mukasey. Although the discussion was specifically about waterboarding he never explicitly agreed to comment on waterboarding, merely on the "internal protocols, norms and practices." And because we are not waterboarding someone as I type this it doesn't qualify as a current practice.

Clever? Yes. Deceitful? Certainly. But as the Ironic Times captured so succinctly, Bush was not going nominate an honest Attorney General any more than he has going to hold a gun to his own head. Refusal to declare waterboarding torture was a prerequisite for nomination.

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