EDITORIAL: Reject Mukasey

The Senate Judiciary Committee should reject President Bush’s nomination of Michael Mukasey for attorney general.

The subversion of civil rights, civil liberties and the rule of law has been part and parcel of the Bush Justice Department. To put things right requires an attorney general who is truly independent of this administration. The new attorney general must enforce civil rights, not violate them. He or she must protect and enhance voting rights, not undermine them. He or she must ensure the Justice Department upholds the Constitution, not the Republican Party and ultra-right agenda.

And the new attorney general must uphold human rights, international law and our own laws, not come up with pseudo-legal justifications for trampling those laws and rights.

Finally, the new attorney general will have to undertake the historic task of investigating not just his or her own department but the rest of this administration for its trashing of justice in America. People will have to be prosecuted and punished under the law for their role in authorizing torture, spying on U.S. citizens and flouting the Constitution, to name just a few possible areas to probe.

When President Nixon in 1973 nominated Elliot Richardson to the post of attorney general, the Democratic-controlled Senate told him he would be confirmed only on condition that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Nixon administration’s crimes. Richardson agreed and appointed Archibald Cox, whose independent investigations led to Nixon’s downfall. Mukasey is no Elliot Richardson.

Mukasey’s lack of integrity and independence shows when he says he doesn’t know what waterboarding is so he can’t say if it constitutes torture. It also shows when he repeats the Bush mantra, “We do not torture.”

Recently leaked 2005 memos confirm that this administration approved waterboarding, head slapping and exposing prisoners to frigid temperatures. The International Red Cross, the United Nations and now U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson have all accused the Bush administration of allowing torture.

Waterboarding was a favored torture technique of the Spanish Inquisition, and it has been repudiated by civilized societies ever since. The Senate should repudiate Mukasey.