Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mukasey Makes It Clear (Sort Of) On Waterboarding

In a letter quoted in today's NYTimes, AG Michael Mukasey wrote top Lib Sen Patrick Leahy on the subject of whether waterboarding is torture:
“If this were an easy question, I would not be reluctant to offer my views.

"But with respect, I believe it is not an easy question. There are some circumstances where current law would appear clearly to prohibit the use of waterboarding. Other circumstances would present a far closer question.”

That's hardly a sterling endorsement of the legality of the procedure, but Dems took the occasion to rail against the Bush Admin nonetheless.

Leahy, who's firing up an oversight hearing of his Senate Judiciary Committee, said the letter does not answer "the critical questions we have been asking about [waterboarding's] legality.” He promised tough questions.

He didn't promise to not look like an apologist for terrorists or a political opportunist. But if we strip our interrogators of the ability to carefully and selectively chose from procedures that do not break the bones, cut the skin or trim the toenails of top terrorist operatives, aren't we being apologists for terrorist? And if we can't admit that these tough questions were never asked of Dem administrations, aren't we being political opportunists?

As for the NYT coverage, it rumbles through 11 paragraphs before getting around to sharing this with its readers:
[Mukasey] said [in the letter to Leahy] 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.” (emphasis added)
The headline on this story is, "Mukasey offers views on waterboarding," which, in fact, he didn't.

Why isn't the headline, "Mukasey confirms administration does not use waterboarding?" Might that have clarified matters a bit more? Might that have made readers feel a bit more positive about the Bush Administration?

Oh ... I get it ... never mind.

Photo: AFP/Getty, from NY Magazine

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