Civil liberties advocates urge defeat of Mukasey

WASHINGTON — Defenders of the Bill of Rights called on the U.S. Senate, Nov. 6, to reject Michael Mukasey, President Bush’s choice to replace the disgraced Alberto Gonzales for U.S. attorney general. They cited Judge Mukasey’s evasive answers on whether waterboarding — the practice of repeatedly bringing a prisoner to the point of drowning — is torture, suggesting that he will continue Gonzales’ practice of trashing the Constitution to satisfy Bush’s drive for total power.

“Waterboarding is torture. Torture is unacceptable, period,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in explaining his stand against Mukasey. “With his deeply troubling positions on torture, civil rights and executive power, Judge Mukasey has failed to prove he will put the rule of law above the priorities of the White House.”

With two Democrats, Charles Schumer of New York, and Dianne Feinstein of California, breaking ranks and voting with the Republicans, the Judiciary Committee voted 11-7 on Nov. 6 to send Mukasey’s nomination to the full Senate.

Angry constituents of Schumer descended on his office in New York City, Nov. 6, to demand that he reverse his position and take a stand against Mukasey on the Senate floor. “Michael Mukasey is not fit to be attorney general because he supports torture, illegal spying on Americans and limitless powers for the executive branch,” declared a statement by the Center for Constitutional Rights distributed at the protest.

Nancy Talanian, secretary and founder of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) in Northampton, Mass., told the World in a phone interview, “People should call their senators and tell them to reject this nomination. Tell them that torture, including waterboarding, is not acceptable.”

She pointed out that BORDC has helped push through resolutions upholding the Bill of Rights in city councils, state legislatures, and other governmental entities representing 85 million people across the U.S. “We have the people on record in support of these basic democratic rights. We’ve got to go to the next level because our federal government is not getting the message,” she said.

Michael McGuire, a spokes-

person for Witness Against Torture, told the World, “Is Mukasey fit to serve as attorney general? The answer is no. I spoke with friends in California and I thought Feinstein was better on this question of torture.”

Mukasey, he said, engaged in verbal “tricks” that he couldn’t answer questions about waterboarding because he had not been briefed on the subject. “That’s an evasion,” McGuire said. “The question was settled long ago that waterboarding is torture.”

About 25 protesters gathered in front of the Justice Department, Nov. 5, to demand that the Senate reject Mukasey. They re-enacted waterboarding to dramatize the torture.

Volunteer Maboud Ebrahim-zadeh’s face was covered with cloth and doused with two gallons of water. Within four minutes he was retching, coughing and screaming.

Gonzales was forced from office after a year in which he repeatedly insulted senators by refusing to answer their questions on his firing of nine U.S. attorneys for flagrantly political motives. He made a mockery of the Justice Department’s duty to protect voting rights by filing bogus “voter fraud” charges against Democratic challengers.

Gonzales defended Bush’s claims of executive branch authority to engage in illegal spying, torture and indefinite detention of American citizens without criminal charges as “terror suspects.”

Mukasey’s evasiveness indicates more of the same, critics said.

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