As the Attorney General confirmation process continues, Democrats in Congress pushed the nominee to say whether he believes "waterboarding," a relatively old torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition, is illegal under the Constitution. Described as a "very exquisite torture" by Senator John McCain, who was himself tortured as a POW in Vietnam, it has been used by the US government on suspected Al Qaeda members, (and the Japanese were prosecuted after WWII for using it against Americans). The nominee, federal judge Michael Mukasey, professed not to know what waterboarding is and was quoted saying, "I don't know what's involved in the technique," adding, "If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional."
Anyone conversant with the controversy - should agents of the US be allowed to torture suspects? - should know by now that waterboarding is simulated drowning, quite well represented in one of the recent Bourne movie dramas, as well as in the history of intelligence techniques. A White House spokesman suggested Judge Mukasey would not know what the technique was until he could read classified documents, which would not be possible until he was confirmed.
Is anyone hearing a signal in the noise here, about the kind of government the US is developing? The nominee does not know what we are talking about? Perhaps he would need to experience it himself to understand it well enough to form an opinion. His evasive response is a disturbing signal about the nature of transparency we might expect under his authority were he to be confirmed.