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Pelosi's Tortuous Denial -- What Did She Know...When Did She Know It?

By Gary Starr for The Neville Awards
Posted 05/18/2009

It started with Reps. Nancy Pelosi (CA) and John Conyers (MI) call for an Orwellian 'Truth Commssion' on Bush era Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs).

It was followed by Obama's unwise release of the four so-called CIA torture memos.

That was followed by Cheney's challenge to release all of the documents.

Then came Pelosi's denial on April 23, 2009 that she was at any of the CIA briefings on 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques'. Claiming she was briefed by an aide several months later about the meeting she said "To the contrary ... we were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used."

Then came the release of a declassified memo showing Pelosi had attended the Sept. 4, 2002 briefing. The chart specifically notes a discussion of waterboarding in 13 briefings between Sept. 2002 and March 2009, most attended by Democrats as well as Republicans.

The story continues below

Then came the Pelosi meltdown on May 14, 2009:

"I want to read a statement, because I need to take the time out to do this," she said awkwardly, fishing around for the papers before her. "So bear with me for a moment, because it'll be shorter if I read it. But I am, again, in the -- in the busy schedule that we have, I think it's important to take the time to read this to you. When - when - when my staff person - I'm sorry, the page is out of order - five months later, my staff person told me that there had been a briefing - informing that there had been a briefing and that a letter had been sent. I was not briefed on what was in that briefing; I was just informed that the briefing had taken place."

"Thank you!" an aide called out ending the session. Pelosi walked, away from the lectern and was halfway to the door when a yell from CNN's Dana Bash, stopped her in her tracks. When do we ever see a politician running from the spotlight unless they are lying?

"Madam Speaker!" Bash called out. "I think there's one other question that I would like to ask, if that's okay."

"Sure, okay," Pelosi said. Obviously it wasn't okay. Pelosi had no choice but to return to the lectern.

"They lied to you? Were you justified? When were you first told? Did you protest? Why didn't you tell us?" Bash was actually behaving like an investigative reporter.

"They mislead us all the time," she said. And when a reporter asked whether the agency had lied, Pelosi said yes. "They misrepresented every step of the way, and they don't want that focus on them, so they try to turn the attention on us."

Looking to shift the blame back to the Bush administration Pelosi renewed her call for a 'truth commission' to investigate the events that led to the use of waterboarding and other EITs. While Obama has banned waterboarding, calling it torture, he has been notably cool toward an independent inquiry that might distract attention from his domestic agenda.

House Republican Leader John Boehner dismissed Pelosi's account.

"When you look at the number of briefings that the Speaker was in and other Democrat members of the House and Senate, it's pretty clear that they were well aware of what these enhanced interrogation techniques were," said the Ohio lawmaker. "They were well aware that they had been used, and it seems to me that they want to have it both ways. You can't have it both ways."

Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, issued a more scathing response.

"It's outrageous that a member of Congress would call our terror-fighters liars," he said in a statement released by his office. "Instead of prosecuting or persecuting, our country should be supporting our intelligence professionals who work to keep us safe."

The CIA said the September 4, 2002 briefing included Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter J. Goss (Fla.), who was the committee chairman at the time and who later became CIA director. Two House aides also attended. The CIA's account said the subject was enhanced interrogation techniques and the particular methods used on Abu Zubayda.

Five months later, on Feb. 5, 2003, after Pelosi had left the intelligence committee, the CIA briefed the panel's chairman and ranking minority-party member on the EIT program. Pelosi said her aide Michael Sheehy, who attended that briefing as well as the September briefing, told her that agency officials said they had used waterboarding in some cases. "He said that the committee chair and ranking member and appropriate staff had been briefed that these techniques were now being used," Pelosi. "That's all I was informed."

Conservatives correctly point out that, if Pelosi was so opposed to torture, she should have spoken out forcefully when she learned that these techniques were being employed. Her failure to do so exposes her rank partisanship and hypocrisy.

Rushing to Pelosi's defense Senator Diane Feinstein (CA), who chairs the Intelligence Committee, responded: "I think it's a tempest in a teapot really to say, Well, Speaker Pelosi should have known all of this, she should have stopped this, she should have done this or done that. I don't want to make an apology for anybody, but in 2002, it wasn't 2006, '07, '08 or '09. It was right after 9/11, and there were in fact discussions about a second wave of attacks."

So according to Feinstein tortured logic waterboarding was just fine in 2002 and 2003, but not after the 2004 presidential election.

In fact the Democrats asked the CIA if they were doing enough to get the information they needed from captured terrorists. It was only when the War in Iraq bogged down that the Democrats jumped on the fashionable 'exit strategy surrender bandwagon' and professed their faux outrage over waterboarding.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer points out:

My column also pointed out the contemptible hypocrisy of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is feigning outrage now about techniques that she knew about and did nothing to stop at the time.

My critics say: So what if Pelosi is a hypocrite? Her behavior doesn't change the truth about torture.

But it does. The fact that Pelosi (and her intelligence aide) and then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss and dozens of other members of Congress knew about the enhanced interrogation and said nothing, and did nothing to cut off the funding, tells us something very important.

And this from the Wall St. Journal editorial page:

Pelosi's Self-Torture-The speaker is engulfed by her own game of political retribution
MAY 15, 2009

If Washington were still able to conduct a national-security policy fitting the world's lone superpower, the Feinstein standard would apply to both Nancy Pelosi and the Bush officials. Instead, Congressional Democrats, unable to let go of their long Bush obsession, persist in calling for a Truth Commission, as did Ms. Pelosi herself yesterday in her prepared statement.

Amid her rope-a-dope session with a suddenly pugnacious press corps, Speaker Pelosi said one other thing that deserves attention by people still hoping to save Washington from itself. She suggested that we "must review" the National Security Act of 1947 with an eye toward giving "larger numbers of Congress" access to classified briefings. This in the interest of "proper oversight."

Is she serious? The mess that now engulfs her and other Democrats can be solved by giving more Congressfolk access to the nation's most sensitive secrets? Only a Member of Congress could conclude that you can enhance political accountability by making it more diffuse.

Back in the 1970s, Congress in the spectacle of the Church-Pike hearings pilloried the CIA for being what Senator Frank Church called a "rogue elephant on the rampage." That exercise, it is now widely acknowledged, damaged U.S. intelligence-gathering for a generation.

Speaker Pelosi, John Conyers, Carl Levin and their supporters are now close to repeating this destructive exercise with hearings intended to be little more than bear-baitings of the defeated Bush Administration. President Obama in his fashion tries to split the difference by asserting that the CIA interrogators will somehow be fenced off from any such exercise while leaving the door open to prosecution of those who wrote the legal opinions.

Pelosi's days as House Speaker are probably numbered. The word in the halls of Congress is that the long knives are out and her support is dropping away fast.

Too bad. She is the poster-girl for Democratic nannyism. Allowing a weakened House Speaker with no credibility to remain would make it almost impossible for Obama to get Universal Health Care and Cap & Trade Legislation on the fast track.

As it is this dust-up may delay Pelosi's promise of the Universal Health Care bill by the expected date of July 31, 2009.

Is it any wonder the Democrats are not trusted on matters of national security. They are always on board when things are going well but when the going gets tough they get all twisted up in knots, revert to form and start their self-indugent moaning and groaning about what a terrible country we are.

We at Neville are glad that we have men and women who are willing to protect this country so that Democrats and liberals have the luxury of whipping themselves into a frenzy of self-hatred.
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