Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Only "Repugnant?"

During his Senate confirmation hearings, President Bush's nominee for Attorney General, Judge Michael Mukasey, refused to answer one way or the other whether waterboarding was torture and therefore illegal. The 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Judge Mukasey a letter, asking him to "clarify his views" regarding waterboarding. Several members of the panel have said that their votes to move the nomination forward will hinge on Judge Mukasey's response.

Yesterday, Judge Mukasey issued a letter in which he stated that techniques like waterboarding "seem over the line or, on a personal basis, repugnant to me, and would probably seem the same to many Americans." The letter also noted that waterboarding is illegal for the military under the Detainee Treatment Act. However, Judge Mukasey refused to say whether the technique was illegal in and of itself or whether it could be used by other parts of the government, most notably the CIA.

Judge Mukasey hedged most of his explanation on the use of the technique being "hypothetical." However, the technique is specific enough to be listed and prohibited in the Army's Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation. He also indicated that it would be irresponsible to make a firmer statement, but of course nothing could be more responsible.

Vice President Cheney has agreed that "a dunk in the water" to elicit information from suspected terrorists is a "no brainer." Waterboarding, however, is no such thing. Waterboarding involves restraining a person, pouring water over his face and into his throat until the gag reflex sets in, and thereby simulating the terrifying, physical sensation of drowning. One news report indicated that CIA officers who have tested the technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before giving in. Or as Senator John McCain, a former POW who was himself tortured, said, "to make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture, very exquisite torture."

The United States needs an Attorney General who won't equivocate on this issue and craftily define away "torture" into meaninglessness. If Judge Mukasey continues his evasion on this most fundamental human rights issue and effectively allows the President to continue ignoring Title X, Section 1003 of the lawfully-enacted Detainee Treatment Act, the Senate will be right in refusing to confirm him.


Anonymous said...


How much time have you spent in Iraq or Afghanistan?

If you were to witness what these whack-jobs are capable of I believe you'd change your mind on water boarding.

You blog some intriguing topics -- you should stay in your sweet spot.

CSM United States Army (retired)
Blackwater Contractor 2 years (much better than typical 401K plans)

Dave Ribar said...


As a former DC worker with a clear sight line to the Pentagon, I am well aware of what these whack-jobs are capable of.

The Army has made a call on this and outlawed waterboarding. So, regardless my specific credentials to discuss this, the Army--which is familiar with conditions in the two theaters--has prohibited this practice.

The U.S. also has a number of laws, the most recent being the Detainee Treatment Act, that prohibit torture. The administration, realizing that it cannot get legal permission to do what it wants, has instead seized on a strategy of blurring the definition of torture. In essence, their position is "we don't torture, but we're not going to say what torture is." By doing so, the administration unilaterally erases the law and then turns a blind eye to the abuses that inevitably occur.

Anonymous said...

I never expect lifelong civilians to understand -- especially in the blogosphere.

Lunch and I'll buy? (that's a serious offer btw)


Dave Ribar said...


Sure, please e-mail.

Doug Johnson said...

I could care less what happens to these people if it saves one Americans life. I see where your NASA people have covered up air way safety,these are the same gobal warming folks, that you get your facts from.If you lie about one thing,you will lie about everything.

Dave Ribar said...


You've got it backwards. The same Bush appointee that has restricted NASA scientists from discussing global warming at scientific conferences has also held on to the pilot safety survey.