House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been pushing for a "truth commission" to
investigate the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques like
waterboarding until Republicans started shining the spotlight on
Pelosi herself. Now she is not so adamant.
Spokesman Brendan Daly told me that Pelosi wants a truth commission,
"but she still realizes the political reality" as in the opposition
of President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The rest of the reality may well be this: Pelosi knew that White House
lawyers had sanctioned waterboarding in 2002 and did not protest.
According to the Senate Intelligence committee, the CIA briefed Pelosi,
then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on the
interrogation of Abu Zubaydah who was waterboarded in 2002.
The Washington Post reported in 2007 that the 2002 briefing provided
Pelosi and company with a "virtual tour" of interrogation techniques. At
the time of the story, a congressional source speaking for Pelosi,
however, told the Post that Pelosi thought waterboarding was in the
planning stages. The source admitted Pelosi did not object.
Who then is Pelosi to go after Bush lawyers for sanctioning
waterboarding, which she now refers to as torture? This is what Pelosi
told reporters last week: "We were not I repeat we were not told
that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods
were used." Yes, the Bush Office of Legal Counsel said the techniques
"could be used," she explained, "but not that they would."
So Pelosi thought that just because the Bushies were sticking out their
necks and authorizing the CIA's use of waterboarding, that did not mean
the CIA would use it. And the Democrats called George W. Bush dim and
Note that Pelosi used the term "enhanced interrogation methods" when
referring to her CIA briefing. Not torture. On Tuesday, Pelosi added a
twist to the story. She told CNN that the briefers "said they had a
legal opinion they said they weren't going to use and when they did they
would come back to Congress to report to us on that."
Daly added, "There's really not a whole lot you can do when you're being
briefed" and you're a member of the minority. Then what is the point of
having a bipartisan intelligence committee? Why not just buy a rubber
stamp? Porter Goss, the House Intelligence Committee chairman in 2002
who went on to become director of the CIA has a different recollection.
As he wrote in the Washington Post, he, Pelosi and the ranking Senate
Intelligence Committee members were briefed extensively, "understood
what the CIA was doing," and "gave the CIA our bipartisan support." Goss
was "slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that
the techniques on which they were briefed were actually to be employed."
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence
Committee, has called on the director of national intelligence to
release complete CIA briefing documents including information as to
who attended and what was said, so that Americans will know what
congressional leaders like Pelosi knew. Daly told me that Pelosi
supports that effort, as she generally believes in transparency.
Good riddance to a "truth commission." It's pretty sickening to think
some Democrats have been poised to investigate and possibly prosecute
those who sanctioned waterboarding in 2002. Yet when Pelosi knew the
White House was pushing it, she did not try to move heaven and earth to
make sure it never happened.