For Immediate Release
November 3, 2007
President's Radio Address
In Focus: Judicial Nominations
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination to be our next Attorney General. I thank the committee for scheduling this vote. I urge them to approve this fine man's nomination, and send it to the full Senate as quickly as possible.
In a time of war, it is vital for the President to have a full national security team in place -- and the Attorney General is a key member of that team. The Attorney General is America's top law enforcement officer, with critical responsibilities for preventing terrorist attacks and protecting our Nation.
Judge Mukasey is uniquely qualified to fill this vital role. He served nearly two decades on the Federal bench, and some of his most important legal experience is in the area of national security. He presided over the trial of the terrorist known as "the Blind Sheikh" and his co-defendants in the conspiracy to destroy prominent New York City landmarks, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. And when the World Trade Center was attacked again on September the 11th, 2001, Judge Mukasey quickly reopened his court, even though it was just blocks from Ground Zero. He and other judges in his district worked day and night to ensure that applications for warrants were processed, investigations could proceed, and the rule of law was upheld.
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Since I sent his nomination to the Senate, Judge Mukasey has provided nearly six hours of testimony. He patiently answered more than 200 questions during his hearings, and he responded promptly to nearly 500 written questions. Yet some senators are working against his nomination because they want him to take a position on the legality of specific techniques allegedly used to question captured terrorists.
As Judge Mukasey explained in a letter to Judiciary Committee members, he cannot give such a legal opinion for several reasons. First, he does not know whether certain methods of questioning are in fact used, because the program is classified, he's not been given access to that information, and therefore he is in no position to provide an informed opinion. Second, he does not want our professional interrogators in the field to take an uninformed opinion he has given in the course of a confirmation hearing as meaning that any conduct of theirs has put them in legal jeopardy.
Finally, he does not want an uninformed legal opinion to give terrorists a window into which techniques we may use, and which we may not. That could help them train their operatives to resist questioning, and withhold vital information we need to stop attacks and save lives.
Congressional leaders should not make Judge Mukasey's confirmation dependent on his willingness to make a public judgment about a classified program he has not been briefed on. If the Senate Judiciary Committee were to block Judge Mukasey on these grounds, it would set a new standard for confirmation that could not be met by any responsible nominee for Attorney General. And that would guarantee that America would have no confirmed Attorney General during this time of war.
Senate leaders should move Judge Mukasey's nomination out of Committee and bring it to the Senate floor for an up or down vote. In this time of war, America needs the best people leading our efforts to protect the American people. With Judge Mukasey serving as Attorney General, our national security team will be stronger -- and the Senate should confirm this good man as quickly as possible.
Thank you for listening.