[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] on Wednesday refused to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee an opinion on whether waterboarding constitutes an illegal form of torture. Wednesday's hearing [SJC materials] is Mukasey's first appearance before the Judiciary Committee since being sworn in as attorney general in November. On Tuesday, Mukasey sent a letter to the committee confirming that he has completed his investigation [JURIST report] into CIA interrogation methods used on terror suspects and found that the agency's current methods to be legal. Despite criticism from committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] on his non-answer, Mukasey refused to characterize waterboarding [JURIST news archive] as torture, saying that, since the technique was not currently in use by the CIA, it would be not be responsible for him to make a final decision on its legality.
Waterboarding was a major issue during Mukasey's confirmation hearings last year when he refused to take a stance on whether the practice constitutes torture [JURIST report]. In the midst of the hearings, he wrote in a letter [PDF text; JURIST report] to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee that he did not know if waterboarding was illegal, and that it would be "irresponsible" of him to provide a legal opinion on any specific interrogation technique without an in-depth analysis of relevant laws and more information about its use. Earlier this month, both former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge [official profile] and US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell [official profile] expressed their opinions that the controversial interrogation technique should be considered torture [JURIST report]. AP has more.