House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to have it both ways on waterboarding. While she would like to tar and feather Republicans who worked in the Bush Administration and authorized enhanced interrogation techniques of a handful of Al Queda leaders she personally denies that she was ever informed that the techniques were being used.
Here's the cliff notes version of the story.
Attorney General Eric Holder's letter to Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman the Senate Intelligence Committee dated April 17, 2009 includes a timeline of how the issue evolved and partial documentation of when Congressional leaders were informed. This is not a complete description of the briefings for Congress.
Excerpt from: RELEASE OF DECLASSIFIED NARRATIVE DESCRIBING THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OFFICE OF LEGAL COUNSEL’S OPINIONS ON THE CIA’S DETENTION AND INTERROGATION PROGRAMMore detail on the specifics of how Congressional leaders, including Pelosi were informed comes from this 2007 story in the Washington Post:
According to CIA records, because the CIA believed that Abu Zubaydah was withholding imminent threat information during the initial interrogation sessions, attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel met with the Attorney General, the National Security Adviser, the Deputy National Security Adviser, the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, and the Counsel to the President in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S. military and intelligence community. At this meeting, the CIA proposed particular alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding.
On July 13, 2002, according to CIA records, attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel met with the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General from OLC, the head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, the chief of staff to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Counsel to the President to provide an overview of the proposed interrogation plan for Abu Zubaydah.
On July 17, 2002, according to CIA records, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) met with the National Security Adviser, who advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. This advice, which authorized CIA to proceed as a policy matter, was subject to a determination of legality by Office of Legal Counsel.
On July 24, 2002, according to CIA records, OLC orally advised the CIA that the Attorney General had concluded that certain proposed interrogation techniques were lawful and, on July 26, that the use of waterboarding was lawful. OLC issued two written opinions and a letter memorializing those conclusions on August 1, 2002.
With respect to waterboarding, based on information provided by the CIA, the OLC opinion assessed whether it constituted, as a legal matter, one of the four predicate acts under the mental harm component of the anti-torture statute. The opinion concluded that the technique would not cause “severe mental pain or suffering” because, based on the U.S. military’s experience with the form of waterboarding used in its SERE program, the CIA did not anticipate that waterboarding would cause prolonged mental harm.
According to CIA records, after receiving the legal approval of the Department of Justice and approval from the National Security Adviser, the CIA went forward with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and with the interrogation of other high-value Al-Qa’ida detainees who were then in, or later came into, U.S. custody. Waterboarding was used on three detainees: Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. The application of waterboarding to these detainees occurred during the 2002 and 2003 timeframe.
In the fall of 2002, after the use of interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah, CIA records indicate that the CIA briefed the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee on the interrogation. After the change in leadership of the Committee in January of 2003, CIA records indicate that the new Chairman of the Committee was briefed on the CIA’s program in early 2003. Although the new Vice-Chairman did not attend that briefing, it was attended by both the staff director and minority staff director of the Committee. According to CIA records, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee were also briefed on aspects of the program later in 2003, after the use of interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.
In May 2004, the CIA’s Inspector General issued a classified special review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, a copy of which was provided to the Committee Chairman and Vice Chairman and staff directors in June of 2004. The classified August 1, 2002, OLC opinion was included as an attachment to the Inspector General’s review. That review included information about the CIA’s use of waterboarding on the three detainees.
Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002There were more than 30 meetings held with Congressional leaders to discuss the subject. We don't know how many Pelosi attended, but it's clear that Congress was well informed.
In Meetings, Spy Panels' Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say
By Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen
Sunday, December 9, 2007
...In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
But, Nancy Pelosi said this on Thursday:
"We were not -- I repeat, we were not -- told that water boarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.
...My experience was they did not tell us they were using that. Flat out. And any -- any contention to the contrary is simply not true. "
Perhaps a reporter needs to ask her what she means by the word "we" as it's clear we are entering Clintonesque word parsing territory here. It's clear from the timeline provided by Obama's Attorney General that members of Congress WERE briefed AFTER waterboarding was used and Pelsoi admits she knew about it BEFORE.
And yet, she did nothing to stop the practice from going forward. Congress holds the purse strings and could discretely have refused to fund the program. They did not.
In the same press conference Pelosi admits that Porter Goss, then a member of congress and her colleague on the Intelligence Committee has said " Well, if they say that it's legal, you have to know that they're going to use them."
In a Wall Street Journal titled "Presidential Poison: His invitation to indict Bush officials will haunt Obama's Presidency" Editors describe the drama this way:
The Speaker now says she remembers hearing about waterboarding, though not that it would actually be used. Does anyone believe that? Porter Goss, her GOP counterpart at the time, says he knew exactly what he was hearing and that, if anything, Ms. Pelosi worried the CIA wasn't doing enough to stop another attack. By all means, put her under oath.Waterboarding SAVED AMERICAN LIVES!
And for those who cling to the shopworn shibboleth that waterboarding wasn't necessary a reminder from Obama's Director of National Intelligence:
“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,”Former CIA Director George Tenet put it this way in April 2007:
"I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us."
We do need an investigation of what Pelosi knew and when she knew it. PUT HER UNDER OATH! Americans need to know whether their Speaker of the House is stupid, a liar or a STUPID LIAR!