Monday, May 18, 2009

Misled or Misunerestimated, pt. 3

So Nancy Pelosi was lied to, or as in her formulation, "the CIA was misleading the Congress."

Fortunately for all of us, it was not about anything momentous (like the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy), but about the relatively trivial matter - at least to most Democrats - of America's security. Ms. Pelosi pleads for our credulity,
contending that she was the victim of CIA obfuscations about the use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) against known and suspected terrorists.

The problem for Ms. Pelosi is that she asks us to believe that the same agency which was at the center of repeated activities in opposition to George W. Bush (i.e.: Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger to debunk Bush's claims that Saddam Hussein sought "yellowcake" uranium, and the leaks of information about so-called "Black Site" prisons, the NSA's warrantless wiretaps and the SWIFT program) would mislead one of its political soulmates.

The problem for Pelosi is twofold. First, she chose to pick a fight with an organization that maintains meticulous records of its activities. CIA documents reveal that Pelosi was briefed as far back as September of 2002 on "EITs that had been employed," to include those used against terror suspect Abu Zubaydah. And as
Minority Leader and a ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, she would have been in line to receive several more briefings on EITs since 2002. To be sure, it is as former Congressman and CIA Chief Porter Goss described it in a Washington Post op-ed.

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. (Emphasis added.)

Second, her own record of statements on the matter of what briefings she received, as well as her responses thereto, is as contorted as a dog's hind leg. Despite her pride in having "worked on human rights and against torture around the world," she was unperturbed by what was described to her in that September 2002 briefing. She did not register any notable concern about EITs - whether they were being used or about to be used - nor did she call for any investigations of CIA activities or for a reduction in the agency's funding. Indeed, it was not until 2004 that she began to express any qualms at all about the use of EITs. By way of attempted exculpation, Pelosi said last week in her press conference (see transcript here), "they didn't tell us everything that they were doing. And the fact is that anything we would say doesn't matter anyway. We had to change the majority in Congress. We had to get a new president in order to change the policy."

Moreover, as recently as an April 2009 press conference, Pelosi maintained that
"we were not - I repeat, we were not - told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used." This bout of bluster came before last week's presser, at which time Pelosi conceded that she was told by an as-yet unnamed staffer that top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee were informed of the CIA's use of waterboarding.

The question becomes why the CIA would brief members of Congress about an EIT that they had not used up to that point, then agree to inform Congress when it did decide to use the method, only to fail to do so. One other question revolves around the fact that no other member of the House - Republican or Democrat - has expressed a similar feeling of indignation over not having been informed until February of 2003 about techniques that had been in use since the prior September. For Pelosi's story to hold water, rather than lying to the whole of Congress, Langley's leaky sieve of an intel agency would have lied only to Pelosi.

It is curious that Pelosi has never before accused the CIA itself of lying. She didn't say anything about it in February of 2003 when she was Minority Leader, nor has she made that contention at any other point during her excruciating tenure as Speaker. She certainly said not a mumbling word about the CIA during the aforementioned April news conference. If any part of last week's fabulation were true, it would seem that she - not her unwilling lieutenant Rep. Steny Hoyer - should call for hearings into the matter. Her calls for a "truth commission" notwithstanding, the fact that she parts her clownish lips to cover her own pachydermatous posterior speaks volumes (as does the fact that Leon Panetta came quickly to the defense of the agency which he now heads.)

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