President Bush’s nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to be attorney general is scheduled for a Judiciary Committee vote Tuesday. The nomination, which was considered a sure bet for confirmation before the committee hearings, has run into problems with several Democratic senators because Mukasey wouldn’t say whether he believes water-boarding is a form of torture.
Water-boarding, which has allegedly been used by U.S. interrogators, is a means of coercing responses that involves tying a prisoner on a board and submerging his head in water until he is in fear of drowning.
A New York Times analysis Thursday suggested that Mukasey’s non-committal answers may have been motivated by concern over whether, if he declared water-boarding to be illegal, those U.S. officials who engaged in or authorized the practice over recent years could be sued or prosecuted.
Neither of Minnesota’s senators is on Judiciary, but I asked their offices Thursday whether the senators would vote for the nomination if it reached the floor, and how they felt about Mukasey’s evasive answers on the water-boarding-torture question.
Sen. Norm Coleman’s communications director, Tom Steward, replied by e-mail:
Norm plans to support the nomination. Congress has passed legislation making water-boarding illegal by Department of Defense interrogators, and Mukasey has promised to look into the question of the CIA’s potential use of this technique and report back. Mukasey has also said that he personally finds water-boarding to be repugnant.
Senator Coleman has concerns about holding a nominee hostage to a larger policy discussion about water-boarding that really has more to do with Administration policy than Mukasey’s credentials. We should certainly have the broader discussion about torture, but not in the context of this nomination. Accordingly, Coleman will support Mukasey.
Andrea Mokros, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s deputy chief of staff, emailed:
Senator Klobuchar will make her decision on Judge Mukasey’s nomination after the Judiciary committee finishes its work.
The Klobuchar reply did not specifically address the water-boarding issue.