Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused to legally define waterboarding as “torture” during Senate testimony Wednesday, although he acknowledged that if the interrogation technique were performed on him, he would personally “feel that it was.”
During his first testimony since his November confirmation, Mukasey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that it wouldn’t “be appropriate for me to pass definitive judgment on the technique’s legality.”
Interrogation by torture is illegal under U.S. law and Mukasey said labeling waterboarding as torture would give “our adversaries the limits and contours of generally worded laws that define the limits of a highly classified interrogation program.”
Currently banned by the Pentagon and CIA, waterboarding involves strapping an interrogation subject to a surface, covering the person’s face with cloth and pouring water on the face to imitate the sensation of drowning.
The method is at the center of a Justice Department criminal probe about the CIA’s acknowledged destruction in 2005 of videotapes showing agents using waterboarding and other “alternative” interrogation techniques on suspected al Qaeda operatives in 2002.