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Administration's torture logic

February 05, 2008

Re "Mukasey's confession," Opinion, Feb. 2

I enjoyed Tim Rutten's "keep it simple, stupid" logic that disrobes Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey's attempt to dress his words in some sort of distorted rationale and acceptable response to the simple question of whether or not waterboarding is torture. Mukasey is only a cut above former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, as he doesn't try to use the excuse that he cannot remember or recall whether waterboarding is torture. At least Mukasey is willing to admit that if he were a victim of waterboarding, it would be torture and therefore illegal. Congratulations, Mr. Mukasey, for placing yourself above any and all detainees who have been waterboarded, whether they deserved it or not.

The only thing Mukasey left out is whether or not he could be tortured if his interrogators believed that he harbored information on the location of a ticking nuclear weapon. I wish Sen. Ted Kennedy had asked that question.

Norman Franz

San Clemente

Rutten presents his argument as though the Bush administration was sponsoring waterboarding for political dissidents. What is missing from his partisan view is the obvious scenario in which an imminent attack could be prevented by using severe interrogation techniques. One can only imagine the screech from the left if such an attack occurred while the Bush administration fumbled over the proper interview methods.

Rutten takes Mukasey to task for his honest answer that he would consider waterboarding torture if it were personally applied to him. So one question for Rutten: If, heaven forbid, you had friends and family in the path of a terrorist attack and the government held someone with knowledge of that attack, would a cross-examination with loud rock music suffice?

John Fisher

Torrance

Re "It's torture; it's illegal," editorial, Feb. 2

Mukasey is trying to single-handedly change U.S. law when he suggests a "shocks-the-conscience" test to measure torture. The United States has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which makes it part of the supreme law of the land under the Constitution's supremacy clause. That convention says that torture is never allowed, even in time of war. Mukasey refuses to admit that fact in order to shield his superiors from prosecution under the War Crimes Act, which defines torture as a war crime.

Commanders, not just the interrogators themselves, can be liable for torture if they should've known it would happen. As Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, said on National Public Radio, the policies that led to the torture and abuse of prisoners emanated from Dick Cheney's office.

Marjorie Cohn

President

National Lawyers Guild

San Diego

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