McGeorge School of Law

Former Attorney General Speaks To Students

September 13, 2010

Judge Michael Mukasey, who served as the 81st Attorney General of the United States from November 2007 to January 2009, paid a visit to McGeorge on September 13, 2010. Mukasey was a guest lecturer in Professor McGregor Scott's National Security Law class. He spoke on "The War on Terror: Where We Are and How We Got There" in a courtroom talk open to all students.

From 1988 to 2006, Mukasey sat on the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, serving as its chief judge the last six years. He presided over the criminal prosecution of Omar Abdel Rahman, "The Blind Sheikh," following the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center bombing. A controversial figure because of his defense of Bush administration policies toward Guantanamo Bay detainees and his unwavering support of all parts of the U.S. Patriot Act, Mukasey replaced Alberto Gonzales as AG only after slipping through the Senate on a 53-40 vote.

"Guantanamo is remote, secure and humane," Mukasey told the McGeorge audience. "It's a place we can keep them [the detainees] from using the federal courts as a trampoline. I don't think the current administration has thought through what its actions in trying to close it might mean."

Mukasey, currently a partner at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, didn't back away from pointed questions. "Waterboarding is not torture under the legal definition of torture," he said, regarding one of the major legal and political firestorms in the Bush administration's "War on Terror." President Obama has since banned its use in interrogations.

In the audience at McGeorge were four former presidential-appointed U.S. Attorneys: Thomas O'Brien (Central District of California), Karen Hewitt (Southern District of California), Gregory Brower (Nevada) and Scott (Eastern District of California)