[JURIST] US Attorney General-nominee Michael Mukasey [WH fact sheet; PBWT profile] refused on the second day of his confirmation hearings [witness list] before the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Thursday to say whether he considers "waterboarding" — a technique that induces the effects of being drowned — to be a form of torture. Mukasey [JURIST news archive], a retired federal judge who has presided over some of the nation's highest-profile terror trials, avoided questions about the legality of specific interrogation techniques, which also included forced nudity and mock executions, 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."
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.