WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush in an attempt to save the faltering nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey as the Nations next Attorney General, declared Mukasey is being treated unfairly by some senators and that his service is urgently needed while the nation is “at war.”
“The president comments came after inviting a group of reporters into the Oval Office to express his feelings. Bush said he was concerned that some people may have “lost sight of the fact that we’re at war.”
 The nomination of Mukasey, once considered a slam dunk by Democrat and Republican alike, is in serious trouble over the Judges refusal to answer questions about what constitutes illegal torture. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination is set for Tuesday.Mukasey made it clear during confirmation hearings to declare water boarding illegal would open a door to the possibility of future criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits against Central Intelligence Agency officers who have used the interrogation practice and those who authorized it.

Mukasey decision to avoid addressing the question may well doom his chances of winning confirmation The president complained to reporters it was not appropriate for senators to press Mukasey about interrogation techniques on which he has not been briefed.

But when Bush who has been briefed on the techniques was asked whether he considered water boarding illegal, he also declined to address the question of legality “It doesn’t make any sense to tell the enemy whether we use those techniques or not”.

The president does insist the detainee-interrogation program “is important, and the techniques used are within the law, and members of the intelligence committee know what I’m talking about.” referring to the Senate and House intelligence committee senior members who receive regular briefings on classified matters.

On Wednesday, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled a confirmation vote for Tuesday. Democrats enjoy a 10-to-9 majority on the committee and it remains unclear at this point if Mukasey’s nomination will make it to the floor.

If Mukasey’s nomination does reach the full Senate enough Democrats still appear likely to join Republicans for a majority vote. But a party-line vote in the Judiciary Committee, which seems a distinct possibility, would block the nomination from reaching the floor.

Legal experts have warned that future criminal and civil responsibility could reach all the way to the President even after he leaves office if he explicitly authorized water boarding.
Water boarding is a gruesome centuries old torture method and unintended death from suffocation is a common result. It is reliably reportedly to have been in use beginning in 2002 by CIA officers questioning terrorism suspects or those suspected of having information on high profile terrorist leaders.

Senator Arlen Specter (R) Pennsylvania, said Wednesday “The facts are that an expression of an opinion by Judge Mukasey prior to becoming attorney general would put a lot of people at risk for what has happened,” Specter made the comments after being briefed on interrogation this week by the CIA director, General Michael V. Hayden, and remarked on the fact human rights groups filed a criminal complaint for torture against Donald Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, while he was visiting France this month.

While even the administrations harshest political critics in congress concede criminal prosecution of the President over the issue even after he leaves office is out of the question. Legal and political observers do agree lower level administration officials express a valid worry in respect to those who actually directed or carried out the interrogations.

They do not enjoy some sort of blanket immunity irrespective of the current Presidents assurances they are not breaking the law

P.S. Burton

You can e-mail burton@phoenixsentinel.com

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