Never mind that this technique has been in the news for literally years, he has no idea what goes on in waterboarding, so he can't say whether or not it's actually torture. "I don't know what's involved in the technique," Mukasey told the committee. "If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional."
Democrats found it "surprising that you are unfamiliar with waterboarding since it has been the subject of much public discussion" and said so in a letter to Mukasey. There's always this point in any hearing with a Bushie -- be it a nominee, a witness, or an accused lawbreaker -- the point where they make a statement so ridiculous that it can't possibly be true.
Here's what I'd do in this situation; I'd take him at his word. I'd pretend that I believed he really was that ignorant and unprepared to give testimony to my committee.
That may seem like the exact wrong thing to do in a Senate committee, which exists solely for the purpose of determining truth. If you get down to the bottom of it, this is always the purpose of any congressional committee hearing. Whether it's to determine the truth about an event or a nominee, the purpose is always one of truthfinding.
Clearly, feigned ignorance is Mukasey's strategy in hiding the truth about himself from the committee. He knows what waterboarding is and he knows it's torture. It's impossible to believe otherwise. His game is exposed and now it's time to craft your strategy.
If you were a Bushie, that strategy would involve kidnapping and torture. That's because they're the bad guys. Besides, it's kind of a random gambit -- it's no guarantee of truthtelling. It's also really illegal. So that's out.
In any game, an offense is designed to eliminate options. You block an opponent's move and force them into moves you're prepared for. This White House pretense that they're all idiots who don't know a damned thing does half the work for you. If you play along, you've got them.
"OK, Judge Mukasey," you say, "I understand that you're completely unprepared for this testimony. I understand that you're incredibly ignorant of current events. I can only assume by your testimony that you're not competent to be the AGUS. Maybe you could explain why I'm wrong in that assumption?"
At which point Mukasey has only two options. Accept the title of "incompetent boob" or defend yourself and, in the process, waterboarding. For the nominee, that's a lose/lose. If you pretend you're telling the truth, then you pretty much have to agree that you don't spend a lot of time paying attention to what goes on in the world. If you defend your competence, you have to contradict your earlier testimony.
The White House has a defense all laid out, but it doesn't make any damned sense. It would fail if challenged. Mukasey, according to them, "has not been read into classified intelligence programs, and he won't be read in until he is confirmed as attorney general." So the specifics of waterboarding are classified? Plenty of people seem to know how it's done despite that -- it even has a Wikipedia entry. If all of our secrets are so poorly kept, we're pretty damned screwed.
There's no excuse for Mukasey's ignorance here -- not a good one, anyway. And the consequences of this nomination and the testimony goes beyond whether or not Mukasey and the White House looks good. It ties directly to an undeniable, ongoing crime.
More than 100,000 pages of newly released government documents demonstrate how US military interrogators "abused, tortured or killed" scores of prisoners rounded up since Sept. 11, 2001, including some who were not even suspected of having terrorist ties, according to a just-published book.
In Administration of Torture, two American Civil Liberties Union attorneys detail the findings of a years-long investigation and court battle with the administration that resulted in the release of massive amounts of data on prisoner treatment and the deaths of US-held prisoners.
The book, relying on the government's own documents, shows that President Bush personally ordered torture and that then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was "personally involved" in at least one interrogation. In that interrogation, "The prisoner was forced to parade naked in front of female interrogators wearing women's underwear on his head and was led around on a leash while being forced to perform dog tricks."
What is your opinion of this, Judge Mukasey, is this constitutional?
So far, this story has broken on one outlet, Raw Story. Otherwise, zero coverage elsewhere. Given that, it's unlikely that these allegations -- no matter how well sourced -- will find their way into the hearing.
Now that I think about it, maybe Mukasey is telling the truth. Maybe he relies on the mainstream media for his information. In which case, it's no wonder he's ignorant as all hell.
Technorati tags: politics; human rights; Bush; Donald Rumsfeld; ACLU; Michael Mukasey claims not to know if waterboarding is torture -- in fact, he claims he doesn't even know what waterboarding is