Pardon me for being surprised that people are shocked to find out that Speaker Pelosi is a typical politician. Regardless of whether one thinks waterboarding is torture, the verdict on Pelosi’s record on torture is in: she’s an accomplice by choosing to remain silent, ironically outed by the director of national intelligence of the administration she worked to get elected.
DNI Dennis Blair has put together a list of CIA briefings of members of Congress related to torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” whichever term you prefer, including waterboarding. The document reveals that on September 4, 2002, Speaker Pelosi was briefed and given “a description of the particular EITs that had been employed” on high-level al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. It is now widely acknowledged that one of these “particular EITs” used on Zubaydah was waterboarding, putting him in an elite class of only three detainees to have had the technique used on them.
This doesn’t exactly square with Pelosi’s recent statement: “We were not — I repeat were not — told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.” Oops.
Pelosi’s spokesperson, Brendan Daly, has responded to the CIA document by saying that “the briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used.”
Let’s give Pelosi the benefit of the doubt and assume that somehow waterboarding, despite being used on Zubaydah in August 2002 — that is, before her briefing — was somehow left out of the list of EITs used on Zubaydah. What about all the other EITs?
Here, there is a clear contradiction between her statement of not being told about “any of these other enhanced interrogation methods” and the CIA document saying she was briefed on “the particular EITs that had been employed.” There can be no reconciling the differing descriptions of the briefing. Pelosi is a seasoned politician, but I can’t see how she can wiggle her way out of this one.
The memo also contradicts the words of former Senator Bob Graham, who said of the use of waterboarding, “Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn’t object.” On September 27, 2002, he too was given “a description of the particular EITs that had been employed.”
Now, we have three scenarios: both Pelosi and Graham were briefed about the waterboarding; the CIA forgot to tell one but told the other; or the CIA, somehow, unbelievably forgot to tell both when describing what techniques were used. I am critical of the CIA, but even I find it hard to believe that they’d forget to mention the use of possibly the most vicious and controversial interrogation tactic in two briefings, with two different staff members handling each one.
The Washington Post reported as early as December 9, 2007, that Pelosi had been briefed in September 2002 about the use of EITs and according to two officials present at the briefing, the use of waterboarding was disclosed to her.
“With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter,” the Post reported.
The report cited a congressional source “familiar with Pelosi’s position” as confirming that she did not raise objections when informed of the techniques. The Telegraph also writes, “There is no record that Mrs. Pelosi objected to using the techniques.”
In the words of the wise Michael Scott from The Office, “boom, roasted!”
It is time for Pelosi to answer the following questions:
- Regardless of whether you were told that EITs like waterboarding were taking place during your briefing, did you voice your objections to them? If so, can you provide any record or details of when this occurred?
- If you were not told about any EITs actually being used, then what was your understanding of the type of tactics that had been used on Zubaydah at the time of your briefing?
- Given the disclosure that Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other EITs in August 2002, prior to your briefing, why were you unaware that this had occurred? Are you accusing the CIA personnel who briefed you of misleading you?
The next week is going to be a rough one for Speaker Pelosi.