Attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey told Senate Democrats yesterday that a kind of simulated drowning known as waterboarding is “repugnant to me,” but he said he does not know whether the interrogation tactic violates U.S. laws against torture.

Mukasey’s uncertainty about the method’s legality has raised new questions about the success of his nomination. It seemed a sure thing just two weeks ago, as Democrats joined Republicans in predicting his easy confirmation to succeed the embattled Alberto R. Gonzales.

Mukasey raised alarms among Democrats and human rights groups during testimony on Oct. 18. He declined to say whether waterboarding is torture, prompting key Democrats to press the point and say their vote will hinge on his answer to that question.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has so far refused to schedule a vote on Mukasey’s nomination. All four Democratic senators running for president said before the release of Mukasey’s letter yesterday evening that they will vote against him because of his handling of the waterboarding issue. (MORE)


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