Leahy wants answers from Mukasey

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’ll oppose the nomination of Attorney General designee Michael Mukasey if the nominee doesn’t disavow the torture policies developed by the Bush Administration.

Leahy says the White House has deceived the American people and Congress about the existence of these policies.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Leahy says he’s extremely concerned about new reports that indicate that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales authorized harsh interrogation methods for suspected terrorists at a time that the Bush Administration insisted that it was following a mandate from Congress not to use cruel, inhuman or degrading techniques.

Speaking on VPRs Vermont Edition program, Leahy says there’s only one conclusion he can reach after reviewing this information:

(Leahy) "I think the Department did try to deceive the American people. I think the White House tried to deceive the American people, and fortunately the press has been able to get information that the Congress has not been able to."

(Kinzel) President Bush on Friday morning denied the allegations and insisted that the United States doesn’t torture suspected terrorists. Leahy says it’s hard to believe that the President is telling the truth.

(Leahy) "The President said we didn’t before and then we saw the pictures of Abu Graib. He then signed legislation that would outlaw it and then quietly issued a statement saying that we will follow this if we want to. We know that the White House was the instigator for the Gonzalez memo, which basically allows torture. I don’t think there’s much credibility these days on the question of torture."

(Kinzel) Leahy says the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Attorney General designee Michael Mukasey on October 17th. As chairman of the panel, Leahy will play an instrumental role in the questioning of the nominee.

Leahy wants to know if Mukasey will reject the torture memos written by former Attorney General Gonzales:

(Leahy) "He will be asked about that at the hearing. We have enough information now on what was going on so we can ask those questions adequately and he is not going to be confirmed by the United States Senate unless he says he will change those."

(Kinzel) Leahy says he has provided Mukasey with many of the questions that he plans to ask at the hearing so that Mukasey can give full and comprehensive answers to these questions.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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