WASHINGTON — Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey said Wednesday the president doesn’t have the authority to use torture techniques against terrorism suspects, a stance not taken by predecessor Alberto Gonzales and considered key to the nominee’s confirmation.
Mukasey repudiated a 2002 memo by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that said the president has the power to issue orders that violate the Geneva Conventions as well as international and U.S. laws prohibiting torture. The memo was later disavowed and overridden by an executive order governing interrogation and treatment of terrorism suspects, which allowed harsh questioning of suspects but included a vaguely worded ban on cruel and inhuman treatment.
“The Bybee memo, to paraphrase a French diplomat, was worse than a sin, it was a mistake. It was unnecessary,” Mukasey told the Senate Judiciary Committee under questioning by Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
In the Frontline documentary on Dick Cheney and his cabal last night, one thing was very clear: The Administration was greatly assisted in its grab for extraordinary executive power by Alberto Gonzalez and the DOJ. Attorneys such as David Addington and John Yoo crafted signing statements and influential opinions that purported to justify that the President had unlimited power, and for six horrible years, the President governed just that way.
Looks like the DOJ could be a bit more principled with Mukasey at the head…