[JURIST] Two key Democrats on the US Senate Judiciary Committee said Thursday that their votes on the nomination of retired federal judge Michael Mukasey [WH fact sheet] as attorney general will depend on Mukasey's stance on whether the interrogation technique waterboarding constitutes torture. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) [official website], each said that their votes will be based on whether Mukasey officially states that waterboarding - a technique that replicates the effects of being drowned - is a form of torture. On the final day of his confirmation hearing, Mukasey avoided direct answers to questions about the legality of specific interrogation techniques because he considered such comments to be irresponsible "when there are people who are using coercive techniques and who are being authorized to use coercive techniques." Leahy has not yet set a date for the Judiciary Committee to vote on Mukasey's nomination and has said that he will not do so until Mukasey clarifies his position on waterboarding. Ten of the committee's 19 members must vote in favor of the nomination in order to send Mukasey's nomination to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.
Congress prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of persons under the custody or control of the United States government in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 [JURIST text]. In April 2006, more than 100 US law professors insisted in an open letter [text] to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that waterboarding is torture, punishable as a felony offense. President George W. Bush nominated Mukasey [JURIST report] in September to replace Gonzales, who submitted his resignation [JURIST report] in August. AP has more.