Is torture a “Family Value?”

When I think of family values, I think of the things that make up a family.  Love, togetherness, morality, discipline, loved ones, a sense of community, and pride.  Apparently however, my hell-bound self has forgotten torture!  At least according to the Concerned Women for America's Eva Arlia.

After the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in August, President Bush chose Judge Michael B. Mukasey to fill the position of the nation’s top law enforcement officer.  Judge Mukasey’s nomination has lingered in the Senate for five weeks during a time when the Department of Justice needs to fill this critical role.  The Senate Judiciary Committee held an extensive set of hearings on October 17-18,  questioning Judge Mukasey on his judicial philosophy and his vision for the Justice Department.  His nomination has yet to be released from committee.


At the start of the hearings, both sides of the aisle praised Judge Mukasey as a great choice, a consensus nominee who will restore the integrity of the Justice Department after recent scandals.  Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut), a former schoolmate of Judge Mukasey, called him “a man of the law, not of politics” and praised his “personal excellence, commitment, hard work and integrity.”  Many on the Committee thanked Judge Mukasey for his work as a district court judge in New York, Assistant United States Attorney and criminal prosecutor.  It was widely held that this nomination would be a breeze and confirmed by Democrats and Republicans alike.  


Now approaching two weeks after the hearing dates, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and others have refused to bring Judge Mukasey’s nomination for a Committee vote.  The reason?  They didn’t like the way he answered one of their questions.  Of all of the years of Judge Mukasey’s fine work, Committee Members are focusing on his answer to a question regarding an interrogation tactic called “waterboarding” and whether it constitutes torture.  Judge Mukasey answered that he was not aware of what waterboarding entails but firmly asserted that all torture is unconstitutional.  Senator Leahy, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and others refuse to bring Judge Mukasey’s nomination for a vote unless he gives a “better answer.”

 What CWA doesn't tell it's readers after the jump…

MUKASEY: The president can't authorize torture because torture is barred both by statute and by the Constitution. And I'd be happy to walk back through that, if you wish.

SPECTER: Well, where in the Constitution is torture barred?

MUKASEY: It's barred by the Fifth, the 15th and the Eighth Amendments. The Fifth and the 14th Amendments bar conduct that shocks the conscience. They've been so interpreted.

the 5th amendment states the following: (

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Nope no mention of torture there.  Nor shocking the conscience whatever that means.  How about the eighth? 

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

This could be loosly interepreted to include torture, but the truth of the matter is this is specifically speaking to what the judicial system is not allowed to do.  Torture is usually used to coerce information from a captive individual.  So while it could be in here, it's more likely not. The fourtheenth Amendment is also not so clear on torture.


Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.

Note: Article I, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of the 14th amendment.

Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

[Sections 2-5 concern Apportionment of representatives, holding office if one participated in an insurrection or rebellion (Civil War), and the invalidity of southern states claims of debt after The Civil War, and Congressional enforcement.]

Nope, no Jiminey Cricket testicular electrocution phrases there.  Oooh wait, there's one more to check.  The Fifteenth:


Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude–

Section 2.
  The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

You're probably shaking your head and trying not to laugh or cry and thus spilling tears on your keyboard and shocking your own conscience.  His ignorance of the Constitution should be enough to garner a NO vote from EVERY senator.

Lets get to the meat of CWA's argument.  Here is a snippet of the transcript with which CWA is upset.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, D-R.I.: Just to finish that thought: So is water-boarding constitutional?

MUKASEY: I don't know what's involved in the technique. If water-boarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: If water-boarding is constitutional is a massive hedge.

MUKASEY: No, I said, if it's torture. I'm sorry. I said, if it's torture.

WHITEHOUSE: If it's torture? That's a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn't.

Do you have an opinion on whether water-boarding, which is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their faces and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning — is that constitutional?

MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: I'm very disappointed in that answer. I think it is purely semantic. 

The reason why Michael Mukasey is being so scrutinized is because he says he doesn't know what waterboarding entails.  Even after it was described to him he couldn't answer the question. 

Senator Whitehouse continued his thoughts by recounting another testimony he received on the Sentate Floor.  He asked the person if he felt limited by what was in the Army Interrogation Field Manual, in which he responed No.  That theres a big difference between cooperation and compliance.  That Physical or Psycological abuse amounts to compliance and yields only propaganda for the abuser's side where as cooperation almost always gets useful information.  It could be summarized with the honey analogy.

So either he's stupid or he's been living under a rock denying he knows what water-boarding entails.  On a most basic level he should understand that where it falls in the constitution is our obligation to adhere to all internationally signed treaties.  He should also just know that in our past we have prosectued the Japanese and others for the war crimes of torture, specifically using the water-boarding techniques.

Where this falls into Concerned Women for America's “Family Values” worldview is beyond me.  But hopefully they can do a little more research and that blindly following Dear Leader and continuing to wage their Crusade is as faulty to America and democracy and Christianity as the scariest threat of terror. 

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