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Attorney general to skip 'waterboarding' in testimony

  • Story Highlights
  • Attorney General Michael Mukasey's prepared statements do not address torture
  • "Waterboarding" was the primary issue in his congressional confirmation hearings
  • An aide says the AG is not ready to discuss the subject
  • Mukasey's remarks discuss reforming foreign intelligence surveillance
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From Terry Frieden
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In prepared remarks he plans to give to Congress Wednesday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey avoids addressing a topic that was the central subject of his confirmation hearing -- whether he considers "waterboarding" a form of torture.

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Attorney General Michael Mukasey will talk about the foreign intelligence surveillance measure.

Mukasey is not yet ready to discuss the issue, according to a statement issued by a senior aide.

"The attorney general committed to review any coercive techniques currently used by our government for the purpose of determining whether such techniques are lawful, said Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse. "When he is in a position to do so, he will inform the Judiciary Committee of his conclusions."

In a 24-page text of his prepared remarks, Mukasey avoided any reference to torture or interrogation methods although he has been pressed to discuss it by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in front of whom he will testify.

The remarks do address in detail the administration's arguments for reform of the foreign intelligence surveillance measure now before the Senate. The law is scheduled to expire February 1, and the Senate has been unable to reach agreement on how to proceed with the measure.

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Mukasey also chose not to mention the ongoing investigation into the CIA destruction of videotapes of interrogations of two al Qaeda suspects.

That's not going to satisfy the committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and appears to set the stage for a contentious hearing.

"Attorney General Mukasey's prepared testimony did not address issues members of the committee have asked him about in advance of the hearing, such as whether he agrees that waterboarding is torture and illegal, and about the status of the department's investigation into the CIA's destruction of detainee interrogation tapes," Leahy said.

"I hope that he is prepared to be more forthcoming in response to the questions of the senators on the committee than his predecessor [Alberto Gonzales], who left hundreds of questions unanswered and allowed the administration to exercise unchecked executive power."

Top Justice Department officials said when Mukasey assured the senators at his confirmation hearing that he would be independent from White House political considerations in his decision-making, the senators should have understood that Mukasey will be equally determined to rebuff efforts by lawmakers to exert political influence on the Justice Department. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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