Bush Justice Nominee Authorized C.I.A. Torture


The Justice Department lawyer who wrote a series of classified legal opinions in 2005 authorizing harsh C.I.A. interrogation techniques was renominated by the White House on Wednesday to a senior department post, a move that was seen as a snub to Senate Democrats who have long opposed his appointment.

The lawyer, Steven G. Bradbury, who has run the department’s Office of Legal Counsel without Senate confirmation for more than two years, has been repeatedly nominated to the job of assistant attorney general for legal counsel.

But the earlier nominations stalled in the Senate because of a dispute with the Justice Department over its failure to provide Congress with copies of legal opinions on a variety of terrorism issues. Under Senate rules that place a time limit on nominations, Mr. Bradbury’s earlier nominations expired.

Late last year, Democrats urged the White House to withdraw Mr. Bradbury’s name once and for all and find a new candidate for the post after it was disclosed in news reports in October that he was the author of classified memorandums that gave approval to harsh interrogation techniques, including head slapping, exposure to cold and simulated drowning, even when used in combination.

Mr. Bradbury’s memorandums were described by Democrats as an effort by the Bush administration to circumvent laws prohibiting torture and to undermine a public legal opinion issued by the Justice Department in 2004 that declared torture to be “abhorrent.”

The department and the White House have insisted that there are no contradictions between Mr. Bradbury’s legal opinions, which are still secret, and laws and rules governing interrogation techniques. A department spokesman, Peter A. Carr, said Wednesday that the department remained eager to see Mr. Bradbury confirmed.

“Steve Bradbury is a dedicated public servant and a superb lawyer, who has led with distinction the department’s Office of Legal Counsel,” Mr. Carr said. “He has proven invaluable to the department, and we will continue to work with the Senate to get him confirmed.”

Joe Shoemaker, a spokesman for Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said that by putting Mr. Bradbury’s name forward again as a nominee, “the president has thumbed his nose at Congress and chosen an individual who has been involved in authorizing some of the most controversial policies of this administration.”

Mr. Durbin led the previous efforts to reject Mr. Bradbury’s nomination and sits on the Judiciary Committee, which would have to approve the nomination.

Mr. Bradbury’s new nomination is almost certain to be a focus of questions next week when Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey is scheduled to appear before the Judiciary Committee for his first public hearing since his confirmation to the job in November.

Mr. Mukasey has suggested that he is a firm supporter of the Bush administration’s tough anti-terrorism policies, and his nomination was nearly derailed over criticism of his refusal to condemn as torture the interrogation practice known as waterboarding. He has since said he is studying its legality.

Mr. Durbin and the nine other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee joined in a letter on Wednesday asking Mr. Mukasey to clarify his views on waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques. The letter noted there had been “ample time for you to study this issue and reach a conclusion” and asked him to respond to the question: “Is the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique illegal under U.S. law, including terrorism obligations?”

Also Wednesday, Vice President Dick Cheney offered a broad and impassioned defense of the administration’s antiterrorism efforts as he urged Congress to act quickly in reauthorizing broad wiretapping powers for the National Security Agency and in giving broad immunity to phone companies involved in the wiretaps.

The vice president, who was closely involved in the N.S.A.’s program of eavesdropping without warrants from its inception weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, depicted the vote in the Senate as a matter of national security.

“It is a fact,” Mr. Cheney told a friendly audience at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington, “that the danger to our country remains very real, and that the terrorists are still determined to hit us.”

Democrats concede that they probably lack the votes to stop a White House-backed plan to give immunity to phone carriers that assisted in the N.S.A. program, and they urged President Bush anew on Wednesday to agree to a one-month extension in the law to allow time for a full debate.