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Michael Mukasey, Bush Third String Attorney General

by Alex Miller-Mignone

Michael MukaseyAfter the ideological, puritanical excesses of John Ashcroft (he of the exposed-breast-covering of the statue of Justice), and the incompetent, vacillating “leadership” of Alberto Gonzales (the gentleman with the serious recall deficiency), avid Bush-watchers were eagerly anticipating what further horrors could be visited upon the American public in the form of George W. Bush’s third Attorney General. They have not had long to wait.

The son of Russian immigrants, Mukasey is the 81st Attorney General of the United States, and only the second person of Jewish faith to hold the office. He is a former Chief Judge of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, where he served for 18 years. In this capacity he was involved in the trials of both Omar Abdel Rahman, whom he sentenced to life in prison for his part in a plot to blow up the United Nations building; and of Jose Padilla, the US citizen accused of terrorist activities, whom he ruled could be held as an enemy combatant, but was entitled to legal representation. His record of support for the administration was thus mixed, and his selection as a replacement for the disgraced Alberto Gonzales was at first greeted with cautious optimism and approval, until it became clear that Mukasey would not be any more forthcoming than his predecessor on the legal status of “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding.

During his confirmation hearings in October 2007 and the follow-up inquiries, Mukasey refused to make any definitive written or oral statements on the subject of what exactly constituted torture, an illegal act under US law. When the specific issue of waterboarding was raised, Mukasey skirted it, affirming that he could not comment on the procedure’s legality until he had read and absorbed the Justice Department’s classified internal memos on the subject and its legal ramifications, which he could not do until he was confirmed as Attorney General. Following his testimony on October 16, a flurry of letters from the Senate Judiciary Committee attempted to pin down Mukasey on the issue, to no avail. Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) expressed himself “deeply troubled” by Mukasey’s resistance to expressing an opinion on waterboarding in advance of his confirmation. He did, however, manage to wring a concession out of the embattled nominee to the effect that in future, any congressional or White House inquiries regarding the disposition of ongoing prosecutions be handled only by the AG or Deputy AG, and not by lesser staff, in an attempt to avoid the sorts of political interference into investigations occurring under Gonzales’ watch.

Michael Mukasey

Mukasey’s nomination was passed out of committee on 6 November, by a vote of 11-9, and he received confirmation from the Senate on 8 November, 53-40. The vote margin was the tightest for any Attorney general in more than 50 years. Mukasey promised to respond to the issue of waterboarding once he had analyzed the relevant documents.

In a letter to Leahy in advance of his scheduled January 30 appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mukasey stated that he had indeed reviewed the Department of Justice’s position on torture, but that, as waterboarding was not currently being used by interrogators, he felt it “inappropriate” for him to comment on its overall legality. “I understand that you and some other members of the [Judiciary] Committee may feel that I should go further in my review, and answer questions concerning the legality of waterboarding under current law... I understand the strong interest in this question, but I do not think it would be responsible for me, as Attorney General, to provide an answer... If this were an easy question, I would not be reluctant to offer my views on this subject. But, with respect, I believe it is not an easy question. There are some circumstances where current law would appear clearly to prohibit the use of waterboarding. Other circumstances would present a far closer question.” Mukasey declined to specify just what those “other circumstances” would be.

Mukasey’s appearance before the Committee was a contentious five-hour wrangle yielding little substance. Although the AG stated that waterboarding was “repugnant” to him, and when pressed, admitted that if the technique were used upon himself, he “would feel that it was” torture, he absolutely refused to “pass definitive judgment” on whether the procedure is legal. Defensively, he trotted out the old argument that “any answer I give could have the effect of articulating publicly—and to our adversaries—the limits and contours of generally worded laws that define the limits of a highly classified interrogation program.”

Mukasey further averred that he would never publicly conclude that waterboarding is torture, in part because it is not included on a list of specifically proscribed techniques. “We may not maim, we may not rape.” He also refused to confirm that the procedure had ever been used, or who may have authorized it. “I can’t speak to whether people were in fact waterboarded or if the president approved it.”

Leahy’s blistering response was clear and succinct: "Tragically, this administration has so twisted America's role, law and values that our own State Department, our military officers and, apparently, America's top law enforcement officer, are now instructed by the White House not to say that waterboarding is torture and illegal... It is not enough to say that waterboarding is not currently authorized. Torture and illegality have no place in America... The Attorney General of the United States should be able to declare that it is wrong, it is illegal, and it is beyond the pale. It has been for over a century."

The following week, on Thursday 7 February, Mukasey compounded his problem in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative John Conyers (D-MI). On the prior day, amid increasing congressional agitation for investigations into the legality of waterboarding, CIA Director Michael Hayden confirmed that the technique had been used on at least three high profile detainees by CIA interrogators, the decision to proceed with the technique having been based upon legal opinions obtained from the Justice Department. Mukasey, thus deprived of his fallback position from his Senate testimony refusing to make any such confirmation, then averred that he could not authorize any investigation into these crimes, as “[t]hat would mean that the same department that authorized the program would now consider prosecuting somebody who followed that advice.” When the subject shifted from prosecuting the interrogators to prosecuting those who authorized the techniques, Mukasey refused further comment.

Born 28 July 1941, Michael Mukasey has several strong galactic contacts. The Sun at 5 Leo is within the event horizon, or orb of influence, of the Black Hole at 2 Leo, which since his birth has transited to 3 Leo, exactly conjoining natal Pluto there. The Sun is also tightly squared a pair of Quasars at 4 Taurus and Scorpio, and another Black Hole at 6 Scorpio. Quasars promote success and accomplishment, and their effects can be clearly seen in Mukasey’s rise from modest roots, as the scion of a Russian Jewish émigré family, through a distinguished legal career and nearly two decades on the Federal bench, to become the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Promotion and preferment come naturally to these individuals, who easily stand out in a crowd, and Mukasey was not only hand picked for his judicial post by Reagan in 1987, he emerged from semi-retirement in 2006 to accept Bush’s offer to head Justice.

While the Quasars have ensured high visibility and attainment, often of positions one has not actively sought, the Black Hole contacts are more problematic. In particular, Pluto allied with Black Hole energies atop the Sun forms a difficult configuration, inclining the native to secrecy, obsession, and a desire for power which can overwhelm. It is ironic that, given this placement, Mukasey refuses to define torture, though he readily sees it when applied to himself. With Pluto on the Sun and a Black Hole, he certainly has the power to illumine the situation for us, should he so choose, but prefers to preserve the secrets (Pluto) of the administration instead. The Pluto/Sun pairing is also reflective of his involvement with terrorism cases, while the Quasars indicate the high-profile quality of the Rahman and Padilla cases in particular.

Black Hole Sun also often chooses to remain behind the scenes, pulling strings and allowing others to take the rap. It is adept at creating a false persona to hide behind, misdirecting others for manipulative purposes. It is also magnetic and persuasive, drawing others into its orbit or influence with ease.

It is also appropriate, given his involvement with cases involving terrorism, torture and the military, that Mercury at 16 Cancer and Mars at 13 Aries are in square, forming a Galactic T-Square with the Black Hole at 13 Libra. Mars has affinities with all these areas, and Mercury represents both Mukasey’s legal decisions regarding terrorists and the status of enemy combatants, as well as his refusal to define waterboarding as torture, while in his capacity as spokesperson for the administration. Mercury/Mars is also reflective of the openly hostile, borderline scornful atmosphere of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. With Mercury tied to a Black Hole his decisions are unpredictable, and may reverse precedent or challenge the status quo thinking. Jupiter also ties to this pattern from 13 Gemini, exactly sextile Mars and trine the Black Hole, further inflating the situation and bringing in the environment of the Justice Department, which it rules, as well as his prior judicial positions.

From 16 Cancer Mercury is also exactly sextile the Black Hole at 16 Taurus and trine another at 17 Sagittarius, ramping up their effects. Mercury tied to Black Hole energies can be the ultimate equivocator, unable or unwilling to take a clear stand on the issue, hoping by avoidance or misdirection to move past the moment and defer commitment. Persuasive and impassioned, Black Hole Mercury can also be inordinately convinced of its own rightness and rectitude, stubborn in its opinion but willing to take up any argument to support it, even ones in conflict. The mind is retentive, but less than honest with itself and others, and may reject inconvenient facts out of hand.

Saturn and Uranus conjoin at 26 and 29 Taurus, straddling a Maser at 27 Taurus and in square to a Black Hole at 27 Aquarius. This is a strange combination of conservative and progressive viewpoints, and with the Maser energy, suggests a disruptive, volatile or controversial aspect to the career or work life. This is borne out by the types of cases he attracted as a judge, and now his enigmatic stance on waterboarding. Unpredictable and erratic, there is too much of the rebel in Mukasey to completely conform to expectations. If his tenure at Justice were to be longer, it is quite possible that Bush would come to regret his choice, as Mukasey is at best an unstable and uncommitted ally of the establishment.

The Black Hole square to Saturn also suggests a certain rabbit-out-of-a-hat quality to Mukasey’s career path, as can in fact be intuited from his sudden advancement to the federal bench by Reagan, and Bush plucking him from relative obscurity after Mukasey retired from this post, elevating him as the highest legal officer in the land. Asteroid Pandora aligns with this pair from 0 Gemini, a possible indicator that Mukasey may yet be influential in opening or illuminating some point of controversy for the administration, if perhaps after leaving office, or responsible for unleashing some horrors or misfortunes on the populace at large.

Mukasey’s Senate Judiciary Committee appearances, both the October 16 confirmation hearing and the recent January 30 testimony, occurred within days of Mercury’s retrograde stations, indicating going back into previously unresolved matters. Both also show the planet of communication linked with Black Holes and Pulsars (Mercury at 8 Scorpio in October, conjunct the Black Hole at 7 Scorpio and squared the Pulsar at 9 Aquarius; and at 23 Aquarius in January, squared the Black Hole at 24 Taurus and sextile the Pulsar at 24 Sagittarius, trine another at 23 Gemini), indicating deceptive or impenetrable thinking or responses (Black Hole), and noted or newsworthy events (Pulsar). The Sun both dates was also linked with Black Holes and Pulsars, in October from 22 Libra it opposed the Black Hole at 24 Aries and trined the Pulsar at 23 Gemini, sextile another at 24 Sagittarius, while in January from 9 Aquarius it exactly conjoined a Pulsar and exactly opposed the Black Hole at 9 Leo. Sun/Black Hole days often reveal dramatic, startling developments, and can also signal obfuscation or misdirection.


When Mukasey appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on February 7, the Sun and Mercury were conjoined at 17 Aquarius, atop the 16 Aquarius Pulsar and square the Black Hole at 16 Taurus, once again combining these four crucial elements that have had such an influence on this aspect of his tenure at Justice. As the clock runs out on his administration, George W. Bush seems to have found yet another sterling example of honesty and integrity to inflict upon the American people.

Alex Miller-Mignone, photoAlex Miller-Mignone is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.

His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at