Senators to Mukasey: It's time

The White House said senators could ask the attorney general about waterboarding after he was confirmed. Now they have.

Published January 23, 2008 5:00PM (EST)

When Michael Mukasey was dodging Senate Judiciary Committee questions about waterboarding back in November, White House press secretary Dana Perino offered an ingenious solution: Confirm him first, then ask questions later.

Democrats on the committee -- including the two who voted to confirm Mukasey -- are now taking Perino up on the offer. The attorney general is scheduled to testify before the committee Wednesday, and the senators have told him to come prepared to answer two questions:

1. Is the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique illegal under U.S. law, including treaty obligations?

2. Based on your review of other coercive interrogation techniques and the legal analysis authorizing their use, what is your assessment of whether such techniques comply with the law?

Will Mukasey provide an unequivocal answer to those questions now that he has had the opportunity to be "read in" on the issue? Maybe, but don't hold your breath. The day after he was confirmed, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham sent Mukasey a letter in which they urged him to "take the opportunity to make clear that waterboarding is illegal and can never be employed." As the Democratic senators note in their letter, that was more than two months ago, and Mukasey hasn't offered any clarity on the issue yet.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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