White House to Congress: Quit Asking Us About Torture

This post, written by Ali Frick, originally appeared on Think Progress

During today's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Dana Perino brushed aside lawmakers' concerns about Michael Mukasey's views on torture, urging them to quickly confirm him as attorney general. "Once he is confirmed, then the Congress has the capabilty to ask him to come to Congress and to testify on all sorts of matters, including this one," she said.

But this technique -- confirm now, question later -- immediately raised red flags with reporters, who pointed out that if Mukasey becomes attorney general, the Bush administration would likely block him from answering questions in the future as well:
MS. PERINO: While they were saying is -- which Judge Mukasey has done, is to say, I will not be able to provide a legal opinion about any particular technique. He is not read into the programs. ... And once he is confirmed, then the Congress has the capability to ask him to come to Congress and to testify on all sorts of matters, including this one. [...]
Q: Dana, a follow up on that. The McCain-Graham letter, on the assumption that Judge Mukasey is confirmed and is read into the program, your policy is still not to talk about specific methods, so he is, if he is confirmed, not going to be in a position to speak about waterboarding as being legal or not.
Perino dodged the reporter's follow-up, replying that several lawmakers have "been briefed on the legal underpinnings and they have been briefed on the techniques. So Congress -- the appropriate members of Congress have all the information that they need about these programs. They are safe, they are effective, they are tough, and they are legal."

But in reality, the White House refuses to even define torture. In fact, key leaders in the House and Senate, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), say they have never been fully briefed on the administration's interrogation policies.

The White House would prefer for Congress to confirm Mukasey now and question him later -- if at all. But the Bush administration's long history of secrecy suggests that, should Mukasey be confirmed, the Senate will be able to glean no more from this Attorney General than it could from the previous one.

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