Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey's waffling over whether waterboarding is torture has left the United States stumbling down one long slippery slope.

The medieval practice is illegal and morally indefensible.

Mukasey's twisted arguments in defense of waterboarding only serve to further diminish America's standing in the world.

And for what?

The effectiveness of torture in obtaining intelligence is questionable at best.

It produces false confessions and undercuts legal interrogation and intelligence gathering techniques that actually work.

If anything, torture further inflames those who want to harm the United States. In other words, waterboarding could be causing more harm than good.

Mukasey tried to justify waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

But it's impossible to make a convincing case, given that waterboarding has long been considered torture and violates international law and U.S. statutes.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass.) asked Mukasey if waterboarding would be torture if it were done to him.

Mukasey said yes.

Kennedy then asked under what circumstances would waterboarding be lawful.

Mukasey said he couldn't answer the question because it might tell "our enemies exactly what they can expect in those eventualities."

For a second it sounded as though Alberto "I can't recall" Gonzales were back on the job.

Mukasey agreed that waterboarding would "shock the conscience" if used to get information that wouldn't save lives. But he said it's OK if used to prevent a terror plot.

Perhaps. But how can you trust information from someone who just wants the pain to stop?

If the head of the Justice Department refuses to say waterboarding is illegal, then Congress should do it for him.

It should pass a measure that makes clear to everyone that all forms of abusive interrogation are prohibited. Period!

Waterboarding, which subjects suspects to simulated drowning, has been repudiated by this country since the Spanish-American War. It is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. The Army Field Manual forbids it.

Yet, the Bush administration and the highest law enforcement officer in the land say it's OK.

Congress needs to pass a law that puts an end to waterboarding and other torture once and for all.