Bush Questions to Mukasey on torture 'unfair'

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WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) US President George W Bush today defended his attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey, who has come under fire from Senate Democrats for refusing to say if he thinks waterboarding is illegal torture.

''I believe the questions he's been asked are unfair,'' Bush said in an Oval Office session with reporters. ''He's been asked to give opinions on a programme - or techniques of a programme - on which he has not been briefed.'' Bush's effort to win Senate confirmation for Mukasey has run into trouble as Democrats have expressed concern over his refusal to reject the widely denounced interrogation technique known as waterboarding, or simulated drowning, as unlawful torture.

Bush is to speak later on the ''war on terror'' and call for the Senate to swiftly confirm Mukasey, a retired judge and federal prosecutor from New York.

''I will make the case -- and I strongly believe this is true -- that Judge Mukasey is not being treated fairly,'' Bush said.

Critics have accused the United States of torturing suspects in the war on terrorism, with the CIA reportedly using waterboarding after the September 11 attacks.

Despite Bush's assurances that he prohibits torture, it's unclear how detainees are treated since he has refused to disclose interrogation techniques.

Mukasey wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee's 10 Democrats on Tuesday that waterboarding, as they described it to him, is ''repugnant to me.'' But Mukasey said he does not know if US interrogation methods violate laws against torture. He vowed to find out and take corrective action if needed.

REUTERS RJ BD2044

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