House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was thoroughly briefed in September 2002 that CIA interrogators were waterboarding terrorist Abu Zubaydah, according to report from the National Intelligence Director's Office that Fox News and other agencies obtained.
The revelations completely contradict Pelosi’s repeated assertions that she knew nothing about “harsh interrogation” measures being carried out on enemy combatants.
The 10-page report, submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee and other Capitol Hill officials Wednesday, refutes in considerable detail Pelosi’s statement last month that she was never told about the use of waterboarding or other special interrogation tactics.
According to the report, Pelosi was told of the techniques used against Zubaydah during a Sept. 4, 2002, meeting with intelligence officials, then-House intelligence committee chairman Porter Goss, and two aides. At the time, Pelosi was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
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Pelosi has said repeatedly that she was told only that the Bush administration had legal opinions that would have supported the use of such techniques. But CIA leaders have maintained that Pelosi and other Democrats who have been protesting recently about the use of enhanced interrogation knew about it all along.
The section containing details about the meeting is titled, “Briefing on EITs including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of particular EITs that had been employed.”
EITs stand for “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a classification of special interrogation tactics that includes waterboarding.
According to the interrogation memos the Obama administration released last month, Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.
The report also details 40 meetings with members of Congress — though not with Pelosi present — during which the use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques was described, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s chairman and ranking member, Bob Graham and Richard Shelby, were given a briefing similar to the one with Pelosi and Goss on Sept. 27, 2002, according to the report.
On Feb. 4, 2003, a briefing on enhanced interrogation for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., revealed that interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri were taped.
In addition, that briefing “described in considerable details” the techniques used, including “how the water board was used.”
A similar briefing the following day included Goss and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who by that time had become the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, when Pelosi moved on to become minority leader.
But Pelosi repeatedly has denied ever being told about waterboarding.
“In that or any other briefing . . . we were not, and I repeat, were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used," Pelosi said at a news conference in April. "What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel . . . opinions that they could be used, but not that they would."
Republicans have already accused Pelosi and other Democrats of having politically selective memories when it comes to who knew what, and when, about the Bush-era interrogation programs. A Washington Post story published in 2007 quoted two officials saying the California Democrat and three other lawmakers received an extensive secret briefing on the interrogation tactics, including waterboarding. They raised no objections at the time, according to the article.
Pelosi is among Democratic lawmakers who want an independent commission established to investigate officials and lawyers involved in the drafting the of interrogation methods.
But the Obama Justice Department appears to have backed away from recommending criminal charges against the Bush administration lawyers who wrote the memos approving the methods. The Associated Press reported Thursday night that investigators recommended referring two of the three lawyers to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action.
Pelosi was unavailable to reporters Thursday night. Brendan Daly, a Pelosi spokesman, told ABC that Pelosi’s recollection of the meeting is different than the way it is described in the report from the DNI’s office.
“The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used,” Daly said.
Daly pointed out that the report backs up Pelosi’s contention that she was briefed only once on “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Her name does not appear elsewhere in the report.
"As this document shows, the speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002," Daly said.
But Pelosi did not formally register objections to the interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration. President Obama has said he considers such techniques to be "torture."
CIA Director Leon Panetta told the Journal that the agency compiled the document, based on the files and notes that represented the best recollections of the briefers, in response to requests from Republican lawmakers.
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