The Senate's duty to reject Mukasey is a very simple matter. Federal statutes, military law, and international treaties which the United States has signed (and which we indeed initiated) all forbid the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique because it constitutes torture. Given that Mukasey is not prepared to enforce such laws, he is not fit to serve as attorney general.
For those who don't know what waterboarding is, here's a definition from DailyKos:
Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.
"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.
Why then is Mukasey insisting on not defining waterboarding as torture. It's because the Bush admininistration has been systematically employing waterboarding, extreme sensory deprivation, mock executions, and other torture techniques in its interrogations. They've also been sending accused terrorists to countries where they would be tortured.
All of these practices are felonies under American law and violations of international law. If Mukasey admitted that waterboarding was torture, he would be admitting that a wide range of American practices are torture and he would be putting everyone associated with those practices from the interrogators on the spot to President George Bush in legal jeopardy.
The problem is that the Bush administration deserves to be in legal jeopardy.
What the Democrats need to do is step up to the political plate and refuse to endorse anyway for Attorney General who does not acknowledge the illegal character of Bush administration interrogation practices.
And the Democrats should do so even if that means not having an Attorney General confirmed through the end of the Bush administration.