Torture, Spying Issues to Top AG Hearing

Last week, the White House also re-nominated Steven G. Bradbury to lead the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. Bradbury, considered by many to be a pivotal player in the administration's legal strategy regarding the war on terror, was blocked by angry Senate Democrats last year. Bradbury has been serving as acting head of the office.

The move by the White House to re-nominate Bradbury infuriated some Democrats. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said last week, "The President has thumbed his nose at Congress by choosing an individual who has been involved in authorizing some of the most controversial policies of this Administration — from warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans to torture guidelines that are inconsistent with American values. Despite their claims to the contrary, it appears that it is business as usual at the White House and Department of Justice."

Sen. Leahy is also awaiting response from Mukasey regarding the Department of Justice's internal review of procedures to select outside monitors to oversee out-of-court settlements between the department and large companies.

The New York Times reported that concerns had been raised when it was learned that New Jersey U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie had awarded lucrative contracts to several former Department of Justice officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft. The paper reported that while there were no accusations of wrongdoing, aides to Mukasey were concerned about the appearance of favoritism.

Mukasey has also come under fire for resisting calls for an independent counsel to investigate the recent controversy regarding the CIA's decision to destroy videotapes depicting two high-level detainees being subjected to possibly harsh interrogation techniques. Instead, Mukasey has named John H. Durham, Assistant U.S. Attorney from Connecticut, to head up the investigation.

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