Mukasey Offers View on Waterboarding – which, oddly enough, is exactly the opposite of what former US Acting Assiatant Attorney General Daniel Levin said about it. it’s extremely suspicious to me that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t say anything about it before he was “elected”, but now that he’s actually got the job, he’s falling right in line with everyone else in this corrupt administration… 8/
Illegal Government Surveillance: It’s Not Just For Foreigners
Mukasey Offers View on Waterboarding
January 30, 2008
By PHILIP SHENON
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Tuesday that the harsh C.I.A. interrogation technique known as waterboarding was not clearly illegal, and suggested that it could be used against terrorism suspects once again if requested by the White House.
Mr. Mukasey’s statement came in a letter delivered Tuesday night to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has scheduled for Wednesday its first oversight hearing for the new attorney general. The conclusions of the letter are likely to be a focus of severe questioning by Senate Democrats who have described waterboarding, which creates the sensation of drowning, as torture.
“If this were an easy question, I would not be reluctant to offer my views,” Mr. Mukasey wrote to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who heads the committee.
“But with respect, I believe it is not an easy question,” he said. “There are some circumstances where current law would appear clearly to prohibit the use of waterboarding. Other circumstances would present a far closer question.”
The letter did not define any of the circumstances.
Mr. Leahy said in a statement late Tuesday night that the letter “echoes what other administration officials have said about the use of waterboarding” but that it did not “answer the critical questions we have been asking about its legality.” He said that Mr. Mukasey “knows that this will not end the matter” and that he can expect “to be asked serious questions at the hearing tomorrow.”
The Bush administration has confirmed that the Central Intelligence Agency used waterboarding against a small number of Qaeda figures captured after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The administration has said waterboarding was stopped several years ago in the wake of protests over the practice, in which suspects are placed on a flat surface, cloth or cellophane is put over their faces, and water is then poured over them.
The question of whether waterboarding amounts to torture nearly derailed Mr. Mukasey’s nomination for attorney general. At his Senate confirmation hearings in October, he refused to say whether he considered the technique to be torture or to be otherwise illegal. He said he needed to withhold judgment until he had received classified briefings on the subject if confirmed.
Several Democratic senators said then that his refusal to define waterboarding as torture had led them to oppose confirmation. He was confirmed on a vote of 53 to 40, and the 13-vote margin was the narrowest for a nominee to the post in more than 50 years.
Mr. Leahy and the nine other Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee wrote to Mr. Mukasey last week to insist again that he answer the question of whether waterboarding was torture. The attorney general suggested in comments to reporters at a news conference last Friday that he might never feel compelled to answer the question, no matter how often it was asked by lawmakers and the press.
In his letter Tuesday to Mr. Leahy, Mr. Mukasey said that since arriving at the Justice Department in early November, he had “conducted a thorough and careful review of the department’s legal analysis concerning the techniques that are currently authorized for use in the Central Intelligence Agency’s program for interrogating high-level Al Qaeda terrorists.”
He said that only “a limited set of methods is currently authorized for use in that program,” and added: “I have been authorized to disclose publicly that waterboarding is not among those methods. Accordingly, waterboarding is not, and may not, be used in the current program.”
“I understand that you and some other members of the committee may feel that I should go further in my review and answer questions concerning the legality of waterboarding under current law,” he said. “But I do not think it would be responsible for me, as attorney general, to provide an answer.” He added, “I do not believe that it is advisable to address difficult legal questions, about which reasonable minds can and do differ, in the absence of concrete facts and circumstances.”
He suggested that waterboarding might be reintroduced under the “defined process by which any new method is proposed for authorization” in the C.I.A.’s interrogation program.
“That process would begin with the C.I.A. director’s determination that the addition of the technique was required for the program,” he continued. “Then the attorney general would have to determine that the use of the technique is lawful under the particular conditions and circumstances proposed. Finally the president would have to approve of the use of the technique.”
Mr. Mukasey’s letter appeared to be an effort to deflect some of the harsher questions he may be asked on Wednesday, in his first public testimony on Capitol Hill since his confirmation battle last fall.
“I will answer those questions to the best of my ability, within the limits that I have described,” he said. “I recognize that those limits may make my task today more difficult for me personally. My job as attorney general is to do what I believe the law requires and what is best for the country, not what makes my life easier.”
Illegal Government Surveillance: It’s Not Just For Foreigners
January 30th, 2008
by Tim Jones
Tuesday morning, Congress passed a 15 day extension to the Protect America Act. While it would have been better if Congress had called Bush’s bluff on the so-called “surveillance blackout” and allowed the act to expire altogether, we are glad and relieved that they’re at least taking time to consider further compromises and amendments, rather than caving and passing the draconian Intelligence Committee bill. Massive thanks to all of you who phoned your Senators over the weekend and helped make it happen.
Later in the day, Senator Feingold spoke with progressive bloggers about FISA, eloquently explaining part of what’s so frightening about today’s surveillance laws:
“Do you folks realize that, if you make a phone call or an email, or do what I did yesterday, receive an email from my daughter who is in England, that that is no longer private? That the government can suck up all your emails and all your phone calls, whether it be to your son or daughter in Iraq, or your child who’s a junior year abroad, or a reporter over there, and there’s no court oversight of it at all? It’s just ‘trust us,’ by the adminsitration. That’s what’s going on in this legislation.”
These simple examples are true and frightening enough, but the reality is far worse than they convey. The surveillance devices used by the NSA copy all internet traffic that passes through their fiberoptic cables, ones that carry what is known as “peered” traffic, or traffic between AT&T and other telecommunications carriers like Sprint. This is by no means limited to phone calls to England — it includes domestic private communications.
So, the government isn’t only listening to phone calls with your child who’s a junior year abroad — it’s likely to be receiving phone calls with your child who’s at their friend’s house down the road. This distinction is an important part of the legal action being brought against AT&T and the other carriers, and something that’s rarely conveyed by the media or understood by congresspeople.
As telecommunications expert Brian Reid says: “This isn’t a wiretap. It’s a countrytap.”
The evidence is here on EFF.org: technical documents [PDF] brought to light by former AT&T technician Mark Klein, testimony from telecommunications expert Brian Reid [PDF], and — if you want the full gory, nerdy details — a 370-page declaration from former FCC adviser J. Scott Marcus.
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