WASHINGTON – President Bush’s choice for attorney general told senators Friday the Constitution does not prevent the president from wiretapping suspected terrorists without a court order.
Michael Mukasey said the president cannot use his executive power to get around the Constitution and laws prohibiting torture. But wiretapping suspected terrorists without warrants is not precluded, he said.
“Foreign intelligence gathering is a field in which the executive branch is regulated but not pre-empted by Congress,” Mukasey wrote in response to questions by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Mukasey’s letter was made public by Leahy on Friday as part of a larger package of documents in which Judiciary Committee members asked the retired U.S. district court judge from New York to elaborate on two days of oral testimony last week.
His answers focused on queries about executive power and did not address what Leahy and other senators have said is the chief obstacle to his confirmation: Mukasey’s refusal to say if an interrogation method that simulates drowning amounts to torture outlawed under domestic and international law.
A letter signed by the committee’s 10 Democrats demanded that Mukasey answer that question. The panel’s senior Republican, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, has made the same request.
Mukasey’s nomination needs support from 10 senators on the 19-member panel to advance to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.