Sunday, December 09, 2007

What Did Pelosi Know and When Did She Forget It?

This week Senator Ted Kennedy, the man from Knob Creek, stood in the Senate to compare the destroyed CIA tapes of interrogations of our enemies with the missing 18 and one-half minutes in the Nixon tapes. Kennedy explicitly blamed President Bush and then-Attorney General Gonzales for the fact that the tapes were destroyed.

Granted that Senator Kennedy, hic, knows more about missing memories (is that you, Mary Jo?) than almost anyone else in government. The man is a walking encyclopedia of missing memories (Palm Beach? Never been there), but in this case he has his facts and his accusations just plain wrong.

The bigger story, though, is the outright dishonesty on the part of the Democratic leadership, who were briefed on CIA interrogation techniques in 2002. Rather than disapproving, they wondered if the CIA couldn't be even tougher. According to the Washington Post

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.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.
Is this another case of Ted Kennedy's missing memories? Not really. This is not a story of a one-off briefing, but one of 30 briefings spread over several years, part of the oversight mechanism required by law. Those 30 briefings each involved between four and six lawmakers, yielding between 120 and 180 opportunities for a lawmaker to object. Only one objection was ever filed.

It was only after the CIA began briefing the wider Congressional committees that information about waterboarding began to leak and pick up opposition. By that time the CIA, which had used the technique only three times, had already stopped waterboarding.

Nancy Pelosi, among others, has known about waterboarding since 2002. Her office has been coy, but the bottom line is not avoidable
Pelosi declined to comment directly on her reaction to the classified briefings. But a congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter said the California lawmaker did recall discussions about enhanced interrogation. The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.
She has known about it for five years, yet she has allowed her political colleagues to run wild since with accusations that waterboarding was
a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort.
Nancy Pelosi had been briefed on the technique, and presumably, its results. Nancy Pelosi did not object for almost five years. She was, at a minimum, present when others suggested even stronger actions.

And now, she's asking, "Who, me?"

UPDATE: I'm reminded that Nancy Pelosi ordered the replacement of Rep. Jane Harmon as Chair of the Intelligence Committee. Rep. Harmon was the only legislator to file an objection to waterboarding.

Deceit permeates the Democratic leadership, whose sense of shame is shadowed even by that of the Senate's senior memory hole.

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