Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Pelosi Sideshow

The Pelosi briefing story is nothing more than a side show.

Was she briefed on September 4, 2002 that water boarding and other torture techniques had already been employed? Pelosi has always contented that she hasn't. For example on February 25th of this year, in an interview with Rachel Maddow, Pelosi said,
PELOSI: They did not brief us that these enhanced interrogations were taking place. They were talking about an array of interrogations that they might have at their disposal. … We were never told they were being used. … The inference to be drawn from what they told us was that these are things that we think could be legal. … But they never told us that they were being used.
Here is what she had to say at her press conference the other day.
The CIA briefed me only once on some enhanced interrogation techniques, in September 2002, in my capacity as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.

I was informed then that Department of Justice opinions had concluded that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was legal. The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed.

Those conducting the briefing promised to inform the appropriate Members of Congress if that technique were to be used in the future.


We also now know that techniques, including waterboarding, had already been employed, and that those briefing me in September 2002 gave me inaccurate and incomplete information.
Here is the extent of what that report notes
Briefing on EITs [Enhance Interrogation Techniques] including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed.
It does appear to contradict her claim that she wasn't told that EITs were already used, but there is plenty of reasons to doubt the CIA report.

Let's consider what Porter Goss, the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence in 2002, wrote last month about congressional knowledge of EITs.
...In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA's "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience. [KSM was captured in the Spring of 2003 and is not relevant to the current discussion.]

Goss was present at the September 4, 2002 briefing. He does not claim that he, or anyone else, was briefed on the fact that EITs had already been used. In fact, what he has written is fully consistent with Pelosi's assertion that the briefing was about techniques which could be used.

Did the CIA report intentionally mislead? That is hard to say. However, we have evidence that the CIA was at best sloppy in preparing this report.
The former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, says that the Central Intelligence Agency told him that they had briefed him on the Bush administration’s torture techniques on two dates he was never briefed.

What’s more, the now-retired Florida senator told a New York radio host Thursday that the CIA admitted that they’d gotten the dates wrong.
Graham is known as a meticulous recorder keeper. He has also backed up Pelosi on the the waterboarding claim.

There is evidence that torture apologists long ago decided on the the Nancy knew too defense. Here the lede from a 2007 Washington Post story on torture.
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.
The story paints a picture of Democrats cheering on torture. The first clue that something is wrong comes in the above paragraph. The CIA report does not record any meeting in September of 2002 at which four members of Congress were present and no one has suggested the report is wrong on this count.

As I've said this is a sideshow. Where is the center ring? David Waldman pionts us in the right direction.

Yes, let's have a full investigation, as Pelosi herself wants. But let's be sure that it focuses on that center ring.

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