Michael Mukasey is George W. Bush’s nominee to be the next United States Attorney General, the top law enforcement position in this country. In the beginning of today’s Senate confirmation hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy questioned Michael Mukasey about his opinion on the memo written by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bibey in 2002 which advocated the right of the United States to use torture. Mukasey’s answer was a breath of fresh air:

“We are parties to a treaty that outlaws torture. Torture is unlawful under the laws of this country. The President has said that in an Executive Order, but beyond all those legal restrictions. We don’t torture not simply because it’s against this or that law or against this or that treaty. It is not what this country is about. It’s not what this country stands for. It’s antithetical to everything this country stands for.

Soldiers of this country liberated Concentration camps toward the end of WWII and photographed what they saw there as a record of the barbarism that we oppose. We didn’t do that so we could then duplicate it ourselves.”

I don’t know about you, but I love that answer. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with Bush administration associates, the love didn’t last the afternoon. By the time they adjourned for the day, I realized that whole answer was total lip service.

The revelation came during Senator Lindsay Graham’s questions. Senator Lindsay Graham asked Michael Mukasey a series of questions about specific laws and and whether or not they should apply to the United States in the “war on terror”.

The first law addressed was Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Common Article 3 says that people who have laid down their arms need to be treated humanely, and it specifically prohibits murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture, hostages, humiliation, judgments passed without a trial, and not treating the sick and wounded. Not surprisingly, Lindsay Graham thinks the “war on terror” should be exempt from this rule (the lack of surprise is not because of the thinking’s logic, but because Lindsay Graham is borderline insane).

When asked if he agreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling that Common Article 3 should apply to the war on terror, Mukasey said, “If that’s their reading on something other than a procedural basis, then no.”

I’m not really sure what he meant by “something other than the procedural basis” part, but the “no” part is pretty clear.

Lindsay Graham then asked about the Miltary Commissions Act. The Military Commissions Act is one of the most shameful, if not the most shameful, pieces of legislation passed in United States history. It is unconstitutional right on it’s face. The Military Commissions Act is the bill that eliminated the right to habeas corpus, otherwise known as the right to say, “Hey, you’ve got the wrong guy!” Habeas corpus has been guaranteed since the Magna Carta in 1215, and can be considered the basis of the 6th amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees that no one will be held in prison without a fair trial. The Military Commissions Act also granted immunity to the Bush administration and anyone that broke the law under their command either before or after the passage of the Military Commissions Act in 2006.

Lindsay Graham asked Mukasey, “Do you agree that [the Military Commissions Act] is a valid legal document?”

Despite the fact that the act is beyond unconstitutional, Mukasey said yes.

Mukasey was next asked if the Detainee Treatment Act is also a “valid source of law”. The Detainee Treatment Act reinforces the elimination of habeas corpus, and essentially makes it easier to deny prisoners access to legal council. It’s a direct violation of the Bill of Rights, obviously making the Detainee Treatment Act just as unconstitutional as the Military Commissions act.

But, once again, Mukasey said he considers it valid.

After confirming that Michael Mukasey would, if confirmed, be ready and willing to uphold the recently passed laws that allow the Constitution to be violated in the name of “the war on terror”, Lindsay Graham finally asked outright:

SENATOR LINDSAY GRAHAM: “Would you advise the President of the United States to allow unlawful enemy combatants to have habeas corpus rights at Guantanamo Bay?”

MICHAEL MUKASEY: “I would not advise the President to grant rights beyond those that they already have, which include, as I read it, eventually an appeal that is, certainly on an appellate level, more substantial.”

Let’s do a Constitutional comparison. The 6th amendment guarantees, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” The Attorney General nominee believes people should eventually get to appeal a trial that they never really received. These ideas don’t seem to match.

Bottom line: all that talk about how torture is “antithetical to everything this country stands for” will be irrelevant because Michael Mukasey will allow himself to be guided by laws such as the Military Commissions Act and the Detainee Treatment Act, despite their unconstitutionality.

The underlying reason for Michael Mukasey’s answers goes back to the beginning of Lindsay Graham’s questioning when he and Mukasey defined 9/11 (and therefore the “war on terror”) as acts of war, instead of criminal acts. Apparently, this definition allows the passage of and adherence to laws that defy the Constitution, under the guise of being military laws. Why military laws are not required to adhere to the Constitution is beyond me.

But what does seem quite clear is that Michael Mukasey, like the President, does not believe the Constitution needs to be strictly enforced in the “war on terror”.

This should be an automatic disqualification for the United States Attorney General position. Let’s see if it actually will be…

(For the record: based on the bipartisan ass kissing I witnessed by our Senators, I’m not hopeful.)

Jen Clark – Little Country Lost

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