Notice they're shifting the subject from whether there was or wasn't abuse in violation of Geneva; to whether the illegal abuse -- torture or not -- did or didn't provide information. We hear no distinction between whether the information was useful as evidence or combat targeting.
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey suggested Friday that he might never provide an answer to the question that threatened his Senate confirmation last year: Does the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding amount to torture?
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t answer it,” he said at a news conference. “I didn’t say that I would.”
Mr. Mukasey’s refusal to answer the question publicly during his Senate confirmation hearings last fall led several Democrats to vote against his nomination to run the Justice Department.
Bush administration officials have acknowledged that the Central Intelligence Agency subjected a small number of captured Qaeda leaders to waterboarding, which creates the sensation of drowning, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but added that the agency had since ended the practice.
In only his second formal meeting with reporters since his confirmation, Mr. Mukasey said Friday that he was continuing to review the “current program” of interrogation methods used against terrorism suspects, as well as the legal opinions prepared in the Justice Department that authorized harsh techniques.
“That’s what I said I would do,” said Mr. Mukasey, a former federal judge in New York. “And I can’t say any more, and I won’t say any more.”
Since administration officials say waterboarding is no longer used by the C.I.A., Mr. Mukasey’s comments about his review of the “current” interrogation program suggests that he may not feel compelled to review the legality of waterboarding. In his confirmation hearings, he described waterboarding as “repugnant” but said he could not describe it as torture without knowing more about how it was carried out.
In a letter to Mr. Mukasey this week, all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed him again for an answer to the question of whether waterboarding is torture and suggested it would be a focus of an oversight hearing next week at which the attorney general is scheduled to testify.
He can also expect to be questioned in the hearing about the White House’s renomination this week of Steven G. Bradbury to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as an assistant attorney general.
The new nomination was seen as a snub to Senate Democrats who had called for the White House to find another candidate for the job after the disclosure in October that Mr. Bradbury, who is running the office without Senate confirmation, had written classified legal memorandums in 2005 that authorized the use of interrogation methods that human rights groups define as torture.
“Steve Bradbury is one of the finest lawyers I’ve ever met,” Mr. Mukasey said when asked if he supported the White House move. “I want to continue working with him.”
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 13, 2001
President Issues Military Order
Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism
By the authority vested in me as President and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution (Public Law 107-40, 115 Stat. 224) and sections 821 and 836 of title 10, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Many people we talked to say that the president['s] Feb. 7, 2002, [memo] announcing Geneva will kind of apply has a loophole big enough to drive a truck through, giving him as much wiggle room as possible.
Well, he did not announce that the Geneva Conventions applied to these detainees. He announced the opposite: that as a matter of law, these folks were not covered by the Geneva Conventions. They didn't have a right to insist on the protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions, many of which made very little sense as a practical matter when applied to people like this. I mean, the notion of paying senior Al Qaeda leaders a monthly stipend in Swiss francs for them to spend at the canteen is a little bit silly when you think about it. The notion of supplying people who are potentially suicidal maniacs with knives and forks, cutlery, as you're required to do under the Geneva Convention for the preparation of their own food, doesn't make a tremendous amount of sense. And the president came to the conclusion that the United States was not required, in fact, to afford the full panoply of Geneva rights to these detainees when they were captured.
He did, however, say that we were going to afford them humane treatment consistent with principles of international humanitarian law and that we would treat them generally in accordance with Geneva, except to the extent that exigency, military necessity required otherwise. That's entirely consistent with what he was saying, which is we're doing this as a matter of grace, as a matter of policy; we're going to do it insofar as it doesn't impede the war effort. It was not intended as a loophole, because there was no rule that you needed a loophole to get through. All the president was saying is these people are unlawful combatants; they are not entitled to Geneva status. They are not POWs, but insofar as we can without hampering the war effort, we're going to treat them in accordance with those bodies of law.