December 15th, 2007
07:01 AM ET
15 years ago

Mukasey turns down Hill demands for CIA tapes information

Attorney General Michael Mukasey

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Friday rejected demands from key congressional leaders for information about the Justice Department's preliminary inquiry into the destruction of CIA tapes of detainee interrogations, saying to do so might be seen as bowing to "political influence."

In letters to the House and Senate Judiciary committees, he said he would not turn over the material they want nor would he appoint a special prosecutor to conduct the investigation, as some lawmakers had requested.

"At my confirmation hearing, I testified that I would act independently, resist political pressure and ensure that politics plays no role in cases brought by the Department of Justice. Consistent with that testimony, the facts will be followed wherever they lead in this inquiry and the relevant law applied," Mukasey said.

He sent a third similar letter to Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who had been the first to issue demands for information from the Justice Department.

"With regard to the suggestion that I appoint a special counsel, I am aware of no facts at present to suggest that department attorneys cannot conduct this inquiry in an impartial manner. If I become aware of information that leads me to a different conclusion, I will act on it," Mukasey said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said he was "disappointed" by the decision and indicated a confrontation with the new attorney general will come early next year.

"I will ask Attorney General Mukasey - in public and on the record - more about the department's knowledge of and role in the existence and destruction of these videotapes at the committee's next oversight hearing, which I intend to call early next year," Leahy said in a written statement.

He also indicated that access to the CIA tape inquiry will be an issue when Mukasey's nominated deputy comes before the panel for a confirmation hearing next week.

"The committee will also look forward to hearing from deputy attorney general nominee Mark Filip about this matter at his confirmation hearing on December 19," Leahy said.

Also Friday, CIA Inspector General John Helgerson and assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein sent a similar letter to the top Democrat and Republican on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

The letter, to committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes and ranking Republican member Peter Hoekstra, urged the committee to abandon its investigation of the tape destruction - saying their inquiry would interfere with the inspector general and Justice Department's own inquiry.

"We cannot estimate how long this process will take or where it will lead, but pledge to advise you as soon as we conclude that our efforts are no longer at risk or that these request can be fulfilled without jeopardizing our inquiry," the letter reads.

Filed under: Michael Mukasey
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Independent in IA

    Did you really expect anything else? Another Bush lap-dog. The 'decider' has made it abundantly clear that he has no regard for the constitution and feels he knows far more than the Founding Fathers of this nation. HE has decided that water-boarding is not torture, and will continue to use it and other means to achieve what he wants, with the military following obediently behind and the Judiciary eagerly falling into step.

    December 15, 2007 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  2. Cody Harding, Kinsley, KS

    Can someone please, please tell me why this dishonest, apolitical, conniving thieves are being elected as Attourney General?

    First Alberto Gonzales [Anyone remember the 'President Washing supported Electronic Surveillance' speech?], who couldn't remember anything bad about his tenure, and now this guy, who hides the truth from the light of justice?

    I'm not going to say we need out-right honesty in government, but I will say we need someone who knows what to keep secret, and what not to keep secret. Mukasey definitely doesn't know.

    December 15, 2007 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. Cheri MacLean, Raleigh, NC

    Thanks, General Mukasey. It's Christmas, but the only song running over and over through my head is by the rock group The Who; "Won't Get Fooled Again," especially the last line:

    "Meet the new boss – same as the old boss."

    December 15, 2007 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  4. Robert, Tuscaloosa AL

    You two obviously don't understand politics at all. This Democratically-controlled Congress is all talk. They are virtually powerless and to make up for this they try and talk tough.

    They should read the US Constitution and understand separation of powers. All they have done since taking office is tried to interfere with the executive branch. The Attorney General is appointed by the President...whether we like it or not.

    December 15, 2007 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  5. Steve, Lyons, CO

    What a shock. President Stalin Jr. stonewalling, covering up their crimes.

    What a bunch of sissies Americans have become, letting these thugs run roughshod over everything this country stands for.

    December 15, 2007 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  6. Len, Fallbrook, CA

    I'm glad to see Mukasey has some backbone unlike Taliban Durbin and Leaky Leahy. He answered the complaint and if he finds anything he will report it.

    If I recall correctly one of the poor gent that was waterboarded had a devine revilation from Allah and started talking, saving lives.

    Of course the Libs would like to give this terrorist amnesty in exchange for his testimony I suppose.

    Another endless but not suprising investigation and we wonder why the approval rating for Congress is below that of Bush.

    December 15, 2007 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  7. Jon, New York NY

    Why has it come to this? Do people even understand what torture is? It's to create pain so unbearable the person wants to die. It isn't even reliable for getting intel... most people just lie so they don't have to feel the pain anymore, just trying to tell the interrogator what they want to hear. All this does is CREATE terrorists because a country that tortures someone without a trial... is a country worth fighting against..... sad to say... but America is no longer considered a moral country.

    December 15, 2007 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. Independent in IA

    Can someone please, please tell me why this dishonest, apolitical, conniving thieves are being elected as Attourney General?
    Posted By Cody Harding, Kinsley, KS : December 15, 2007 9:26 am

    Sorry, Cody, but neither Gonzales nor Mukasey was 'elected'. They were appointed by the 'Decider'. Gonzales, because of long loyalty and puckered lips, and Muckassy because he was a team player.

    December 15, 2007 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  9. AJP,Richardson, TX

    I'll say it again, there is not much difference between this administration and the Communist.

    December 15, 2007 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. TIM, Boston, MA

    does this guy really think he should be independent from the people, his only master he's sworn to serve? either he's a pompous idiot who's confused about who he's supposed to serve, or he hopes the people are too stupid to see his non-sense about the independence of his office as the non-sense it is, so that he can provide legal cover for his immediate boss, bush and corp. FAT CHANCE!

    December 15, 2007 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  11. Tim, Minnesota

    Couldn't they waterboard Mukasey to get the information they need.

    December 15, 2007 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  12. Terry, El Paso, TX

    Mukasey promised us in his confirmation hearings that he would not bow to political pressure. Thank God for a man with courage! He has the backbone to stand up to our elected officials and tell them that he will NOT reveal evidence regarding the crime of destruction of evidence of a possible crime. Many men would have caved in and helped with the investigation, letting the evidence lead where it will.

    But not Big Mike Mukasey. When there are crimes to be investigated and evidence to be analyzed, he will be found bravely flipping through the last issue of National Review and studiously ignoring any wrongdoing!

    We all know that the tape was destroyed because if our reaction to it. No one wanted us to see that torture on our TV sets. If they were really concerned about the revealing the identity of the interrogators, they could have blacked out the faces and modified the voices. The college freshmen I used to teach could make much better excuses than that when their term papers were late.

    I suggest that Mukasey say, "I couldn't release information about destrution of the tapes because my mother is diabetic. She ran out of medication, and I had to go to Walgreen's and get a refill." Or, "I can't say anything about the tapes because I got drunk in Juarez and it took me three days to get out." (That excuse I always believed.)

    December 15, 2007 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. Timmy, New York, N.Y.

    Even during his confirmation hearing, Mukasey made it abundantly clear his top priority as attorney general would be keeping CIA director Michael Hayden's posterior covered.

    So it should surprise no one that Mukasey is now stonewalling the very Senate that so recently confirmed him to stonewall them.

    December 15, 2007 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  14. hey allons,tn

    hey the reason is the attorney general is appointed by the president so thank before you vote for a president like g.w.bush republicans all are the same crooked liars and cheats

    December 15, 2007 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  15. Don Longmont, CO

    Honesty in government, what a concept! This administration in making Nixon look like a honest man.

    Wake up America. Demand more from your government.

    December 15, 2007 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Greg, Houston

    Now he is part of the cover up. What else can you expect from a Bush appointee.

    December 15, 2007 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. Pixie. Murfreesboro, TN

    OMGOSH, I am just so SHOCKED. I never thought that a Bush appointed crony would actually obstruct justice! Get ready for the next round of "I do not recall"'s

    December 15, 2007 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. Hawk,Texas


    December 15, 2007 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  19. Grandpa Jim St Louis, Mo

    There should be no surprise here, any Bush appointee must be an obedient lap- dog! That is the primary job qualification for most positions in the executive branch (translate, Corporate Branch) of our government since the Bush regime hijacked it.

    December 15, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  20. Ba Gua Zhang, Chico, CA

    ""At my confirmation hearing, I testified that I would act independently, resist political pressure..." Flip flop. W gets another lackey in place.

    December 15, 2007 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. Bob, Roxboro, NC

    Well, well, well!

    In the immortal words of Sinclair Lewis:

    "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

    There just doesn't seem to be people of the caliber of Mr Lewis around anymore. Even more shocking is the absence of people who appreciate the occasional glimpse of intelligence offered by men such as he.

    December 15, 2007 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  22. Phil, Memphis

    I don't understand what more it will take before the people of our contry demand that the current administration be held accountable for their criminal acts. They have bankrupted our country, caused the deaths of thousands, obstructed justice at every turn and taken the first few steps at converting the US into a dictatorial fascist state. This is just one more example. If we had a real media that was not controlled byu the pocketbooks of the elite, This President and staff would have been booted out years ago.

    December 15, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  23. Tracey,Minnesota

    If they don't think waterboard is torture,let's try to use it on Mukasey to get what we need.

    December 15, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  24. red33,cedar rapids, ia

    Do we want the people in congress trying to tell our commanders what to do, in regard to intelligence. Let's face it people, have we been attacked since 9-11? You may not like Bush, but let congress & the libs be in control, and take your chances. I choose not to.

    December 15, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  25. hey allons,tn

    hey i just though he looks like he might forget a lot but i would bet he doesn't forget to pick the paper up in the restroom floor

    December 15, 2007 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
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