Leahy says Mukasey nomination is in trouble

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says the nomination of judge Michael Mukasey as the country’s next Attorney General is in a lot of trouble. 

According to Leahy, Mukasey won’t say whether he believes an interrogation technique known as waterboarding is illegal.

The full Senate Judiciary committee will vote on this nomination next week.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary committee held two days of hearings on the Mukasey nomination.

When the hearings were over, Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the panel, said he was confused by what Leahy called Mukasey’s conflicting testimony concerning the legality of waterboarding – that’s an interrogation method that simulates drowning.

So Leahy asked Mukasey to state in writing whether he thinks waterboarding is legal or not.

Leahy has just received Mukasey’s response and he says he’s disappointed that the nominee didn’t have a definite answer:

(Leahy) "I do not agree with him on the waterboarding I think he’s giving far too careful an answer my feeling is if we had an American who was picked up and waterboarded we would be screaming bloody murder…I think we ought to make it very clear to the rest of the world we condemn it here he hasn’t done that he has some follow up questions I’ll look at those but I find it very very disappointing and I think his answer is going to lose him a lot of votes."

Leahy says the waterboarding question is a key factor as he considers how he’ll vote on this nomination:

(Leahy) "I thought it was a very simple question is waterboarding torture or isn’t it and if it is torture is it legal or is it illegal he could have answered those are yes or no questions and yet he didn’t give an answer he gave it on the one hand this and the other hand that if that’s going to be his final answer then I have great difficulty with the nomination."

Leahy says the time has come for the United States to send a clear message that waterboarding is illegal:

(Leahy) "He has the legal ability to be Attorney General certainly as compared to the last one but on this issue I’m looking at it what does America want to stand for and I think America should make it very, very clear that waterboarding is torture it’s been torture since the days of the Inquisition it’s outlawed by our military and we ought to make it very clear torture is torture."

Several Republican senators on the committee have indicated that they may not vote for Mukasey unless this issue is settled.  Leahy says it’s possible that Mukasey will provide the committee with additional written testimony before the panel votes on this nomination next Tuesday.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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