On the nomination of Michael Mukasey to be attorney general, Senate Democrats are demonstrating once again that they would rather pander than do their job. Mr. Mukasey, who has had a long, distinguished career as a federal judge and a lawyer in private practice, acquitted himself well during several days of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But a who’s who of anti-war groups and Bush critics — including the DailyKos, the ACLU, People For the American Way and Human Rights Watch — made clear beforehand their intention to use their hearings as a forum to undercut our intelligence agency’s efforts to prevent the next attack on the American homeland. These organizations and their congressional allies are attempting to entrap Mr. Mukasey into ruling out an interrogation technique called waterboarding — which has been invaluable in getting captured al Qaeda terrorists to yield information about future attacks.
Between 2002 and 2004 three senior al Qaeda operatives with “real-time information” about terrorist activities were subject to waterboarding, in which a person is bound, dunked into water and made to believe that he is about to drown. U.S. military forces are subject to the technique during their training. The three al Qaeda operatives were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who masterminded the September 11 attacks and beheaded journalist Daniel Pearl; Abu Zubaydah, who directed al Qaeda’s terrorist training camps; and Hambali, the Indonesian terrorist behind the Oct. 12, 2002, bombings of an Indonesian nightclub in which 202 people were killed, including at least five Americans. Intelligence officials told NBC News that Mohammed and Hambali were chosen for waterboarding because they were resistant to other interrogation techniques and that Zubaydah had initially told the CIA about an impending attack, but subsequently refused to discuss it. A fourth terrorist, Ramzi Binalshibh — organizer of the Hamburg cell which carried out the September 11 attacks — agreed to talk after being threatened with waterboarding.
George Tenet, who served as CIA director under Presidents Clinton and Bush, said that interrogations utilizing “enhanced measures” like waterboarding prevented subsequent attacks in the United States, United Kingdom, Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central Asia.
But despite this record, Mr. Mukasey has come under fire from Sens. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, who suggest that Mr. Mukasey may not be a good choice to be attorney general because of his refusal to condemn waterboarding as a form of “torture” which violates the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. In fact, the statute is silent on this question. Regrettably, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have joined the Democratic chorus.
It is irresponsible to use interrogation techniques as a litmus test. The success of waterboarding speaks for itself. More importantly, so does Michael Mukasey’s fine record.