Mukasey to Defend Statements on Waterboarding Before the House Judiciary Committee

February 7, 2008 12:00 am

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ACLU reiterates call for independence in CIA investigation and firm statement regarding waterboarding

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WASHINGTON — Today, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee’s Department of Justice oversight hearing. Expected to be discussed is the attorney general’s refusal to firmly state his position on waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, which were heavily debated in Mukasey’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. The American Civil Liberties Union has long pointed to the historic position of the United States that those methods are torture. The Administration should prohibit their use by any American personnel.

“The head of the Department of Justice should be able to discuss plainly and directly how our nation’s top law enforcement agency enforces the criminal laws against torture,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Attorney General Mukasey’s reticence on the topic does nothing to restore Americans’ confidence in the Justice Department, which both the department and the country greatly need after the abysmal tenure of Alberto Gonzales. The Justice Department is meant to be a beacon of independence and righteousness – not a means for the president to disregard criminal laws and core American values.”

The Department of Justice has also been under fire recently for its refusal to appoint an independent prosecutor to look into the CIA’s destruction of interrogation videotapes. The department has instead investigated the matter internally, claiming it is capable of doing so impartially. The ACLU has led the charge in calling for an outside investigator, and the House Judiciary Committee has called for the same.

“Americans need their confidence in the Department of Justice restored, and the department must start by granting independence in the CIA investigation,” said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU. “As long as Mukasey continues to hold his prosecutor on a short leash, Americans won’t believe that the investigation is beyond the White House’s reach. And why should they? With so little time left in office for the attorney general, this simple act of independence would signal a much-needed shift away from politicization in the Bush Justice Department.”

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