Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Okay, does everyone understand now? The United States doesn't torture terrorism suspects and the question of whether waterboarding is torture is moot because the CIA doesn't do that anymore. It that clear? That depends on what "that" means. Or, so says new U.S. Attorney Michael Mukasey, who told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) in a letter Tuesday that the CIA's current interrogation methods are legal and that's what matters. "The interrogation techniques currently authorized in the CIA program comply with the law," Mukasey wrote in the letter, according to the Reuters international news service. "Waterboarding is not, and may not be, used in the current program," the letter said. Mukasey's refusal to answer whether he considered waterboarding illegal nearly derailed his confirmation hearings last year, and the replacement for Bush's friend Alberto Gonzales pledged to review the interrogation program. But Mukasey's letter said he would not give his judgment about the interrogation method, in which water is used to make detainees feel they are drowning. "As a general matter, I do not believe that it is advisable to address difficult legal questions, about which responsible minds can and do differ, in the absence of concrete facts and circumstances," the letter said. Leahy rejected Mukasey's assertion. Mukasey is scheduled to testify before Leahy's panel today. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who was the nation's first director of national intelligence from 2005-2007, said in an interview published last week that waterboarding had been used but not during his term as spy chief. The issue is part of the uproar in Washington over the destruction of videotapes said to depict the use of waterboarding in interrogations of at least one suspected al-Qaida terrorist in 2002. Mukasey ordered the Justice Department to investigate the destruction of the tapes but has rejected calls for an independent counsel.