House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued Thursday to stick by her much-challenged account that she never was briefed that the CIA was waterboarding terrorists.
But each day during the past week has revealed more evidence not only that Pelosi was briefed thoroughly on harsh interrogation tactics dating back to 2002 but also that she never personally protested or raised questions about the anti-terror tactics of the Bush administration.
Even more damning, while many Democrats dithered over the question of “torturing” known terrorist leaders such as Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, GOP leaders like Sen. John McCain were quite active in voicing their opposition to tactics such as waterboarding.
"I was briefed on it, and I vehemently objected to it,” McCain said. “We did the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. So we felt, I certainly felt, I could act on it," said McCain, a Vietnam War veteran with a long track record opposing torture.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, another GOP opponent of harsh interrogation, echoed these sentiments Wednesday in protesting what he called the one-sided hearings Democrats have launched on the torture allegations.
“If we’re going to find out who did what when, we need to find out who was told about it and when they were told about it,” Graham said during a hearing of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, the first congressional effort investigating the Bush administration’s war on terrorism conduct.
“Now, I don’t know what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it, and I really don’t think she’s a criminal if she was told about waterboarding and did nothing. But I think it is important to understand that members of Congress allegedly were briefed about these interrogation techniques,” he said.
The evidence against Pelosi so far: On Sept. 4, 2002, Pelosi, then the ranking Democratic member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was personally briefed with Committee Chairman Porter Goss on what the CIA called "enhanced interrogation techniques," or EITs. In particular, the CIA briefed the members on the use of these techniques on Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking al-Qaida operative captured in Pakistan the previous March. "We were not — I repeat, were not — told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used," Pelosi told reporters late last month. "What they did tell us is that they had . . . the Office of Legal Counsel opinions [and] that they could be used, but not that they would." But Goss disputes that, noting that "we were briefed, and we certainly understood what the CIA was doing,” according to The Wall Street Journal. "Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough." A top aide to Pelosi, Michael Sheehy, attended a CIA briefing in early 2003 in which it was made clear that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were being used in the interrogation of an alleged al-Qaida operative, according to The Washington Post. Pelosi was replaced by Jane Harman as the committee's ranking member, but the bipartisan briefings continued. On Feb. 4, 2003, Sens. Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were given a briefing in which "EITs [were] 'described in considerable detail,' including 'how the water board was used,' according to documents the CIA released last week. Pelosi herself acknowledged in a December 2007 statement that she was aware that Harman had learned of the waterboarding in 2003 and had objected in a letter to the CIA's top counsel, according to the Post and other news organizations. "It was my understanding at that time that Congresswoman Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred," Pelosi said in the Dec. 9, 2007, statement. All briefings to congressional leaders— about 40 in all — detailed the legal means by which the Department of Justice had determined that the techniques were lawful. The CIA documents also add that Rockefeller, the Committee's ranking Democrat, was later given an "individual briefing."Pelosi maintains that she could not discuss her opposition to the techniques with anyone, but there were means in place to address her opposition to the Bush administration, seek legislation to prohibit the practices, and discuss the fact with her colleagues. Harman, McCain, and Graham have followed this route.
The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., told Fox News that Pelosi's accusation against the CIA is "not credible."
"I am afraid she has disremembered what she went through," he said. "We have had not only the records from the CIA but the contemporaries who were there with her had other views on it so I am afraid that this is not a credible explanation."
For her part, Pelosi has launched an attack on the CIA instead of addressing the issues.
"Yes I am saying the CIA was misleading the Congress and at the same time the (Bush) administration was misleading the Congress on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to which I said that this intelligence doesn't support the imminent threat," Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.
"Every step of the way the administration was misleading the Congress and that is the issue and that's why we need a truth commission," she said.
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