The US Senate has confirmed Michael Mukasey as the new attorney general.
Mr Mukasey was confirmed by a 53-40 vote
The vote came despite misgivings from some senators who were unhappy at his answers over what constituted torture in the questioning of terror suspects.
Mr Mukasey refused to be drawn into a condemnation of so-called waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique.
The vote was carried by 53 to 40 in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and Mr Mukasey will replace Alberto Gonzalez.
Mr Mukasey, 66, has presided over a number of high-profile terror trials and is seen as an independent-minded conservative.
"Judge Mukasey is a man of strong character and integrity, with exceptional legal judgment... He will be an outstanding attorney general," President George W Bush said in a statement.
But Mr Mukasey provoked criticism from Democrats during his confirmation hearing by saying he was not familiar with water-boarding and could not say if it was torture.
He later sought to allay concerns with a letter calling water-boarding "repugnant".
The technique simulates drowning by immobilising a prisoner with his head lower than his feet and pouring water over his face.
Six Democrats and one independent joined Republicans in voting for Mr Mukasey.
The choice, according to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, was between "whether to confirm Michael Mukasey as the next attorney general or whether to leave the Department of Justice without a real leader for the next 14 months".
Mr Bush had threatened to appoint an acting attorney general not subject to Senate confirmation.
But Mr Mukasey's opponents argue that he refused to say whether waterboarding is torture and so has left it up to Congress to enforce anti-water boarding laws.
"This is like saying when somebody murders somebody with a baseball bat and you say, 'We had a law against murder but we never mentioned baseball bats'," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.
"Murder is murder. Torture is torture," he added.
Mr Mukasey replaces Alberto Gonzales who resigned amid allegations that his department had become overly politicised.