ACLU Vows Vigilant Oversight of New Attorney General
Following the Senate's vote confirming Michael Mukasey as the next attorney general, the American Civil Liberties Union pledged today to remain a vigilant watchdog of the Justice Department. The ACLU will press for a firm commitment from Attorney General Mukasey to enforce existing bans on the practice of torture and other abusive interrogation methods by the U.S. government. Although Mukasey's confirmation battle is over, the fight to protect the rule of law continues.
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In a clear indication of the deep misgivings about Mukasey's refusal to unequivocally state that waterboarding is torture and illegal, his 53-40 confirmation margin in the Senate represented the narrowest vote to confirm an attorney general in over 50 years. Considering the bitter debate over Mukasey's nomination, the pressure to end government-authorized torture will continue unabated.
Now that Mukasey has been confirmed by the Senate, the ACLU calls on the attorney general to investigate what appears to be an extensive, long-term pattern of misusing Justice Department authority to insulate individuals from criminal prosecution for torture and abuse. As attorney general, Mukasey must explicitly disavow the legality of any interrogation tactic not authorized by the Army Field Manual on Interrogations - including waterboarding.
"As Judge Mukasey assumes the top job at the Department of Justice today, the ACLU fully expects our nation's top law enforcement officer to honor and enforce the statutes and treaties Congress has passed banning and outlawing torture. Congress now has the difficult task of performing oversight of Judge Mukasey's Justice Department without lawmakers or the American people knowing where he stands on waterboarding," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The Senate failed to obtain a firm commitment from the nominee that our nation will not practice waterboarding - a clear-cut example of torture. This not only endangers Americans abroad, but also endangers our nation's values and ethics. Torture is not what America is about."
In October, the ACLU sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee demanding thorough scrutiny of Mukasey's positions on torture, the rule of law, and civil rights. That letter is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/32166leg20071012.html