Congress and Waterboarding
from The Wall Street Journal
May 15, 2009
By Karl Rove
Someone important appears not to be telling the truth about her knowledge of the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). That someone is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The political persecution of Bush administration officials she has been pushing may now ensnare her.
Here's what we know. On Sept. 4, 2002, less than a year after 9/11, the CIA briefed Rep. Porter Goss, then House Intelligence Committee chairman, and Mrs. Pelosi, then the committee's ranking Democrat, on EITs including waterboarding. They were the first members of Congress to be informed.
In December 2007, Mrs. Pelosi admitted that she attended the briefing, but she wouldn't comment for the record about precisely what she was told. At the time the Washington Post spoke with a "congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter" and summarized that person's comments this way: "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."
When questions were raised last month about these statements, Mrs. Pelosi insisted at a news conference that "We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used." Mrs. Pelosi also claimed that the CIA "did not tell us they were using that, flat out. And any, any contention to the contrary is simply not true." She had earlier said on TV, "I can say flat-out, they never told us that these enhanced interrogations were being used."
The Obama administration's CIA director, Leon Panetta, and Mr. Goss have both disputed Mrs. Pelosi's account.
In a report to Congress on May 5, Mr. Panetta described the CIA's 2002 meeting with Mrs. Pelosi as "Briefing on EITs including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on [legal] authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed." Note the past tense -- "had been employed."
Mr. Goss says he and Mrs. Pelosi were told at the 2002 briefing about the use of the EITs and "on a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission." He is backed by CIA sources who say Mr. Goss and Mrs. Pelosi "questioned whether we were doing enough" to extract information.
We also know that Michael Sheehy, then Mrs. Pelosi's top aide on the Intelligence Committee and later her national security adviser, not only attended the September 2002 meeting but was also briefed by the CIA on EITs on Feb. 5, 2003, and told about a videotape of Zubaydah being waterboarded. Mr. Sheehy was almost certain to have told Mrs. Pelosi. He has not commented publicly about the 2002 or the 2003 meetings.
So is the speaker of the House lying about what she knew and when? And, if so, what will Democrats do about it?
If Mrs. Pelosi considers the enhanced interrogation techniques to be torture, didn't she have a responsibility to complain at the time, introduce legislation to end the practices, or attempt to deny funding for the CIA's use of them? If she knew what was going on and did nothing, does that make her an accessory to a crime of torture, as many Democrats are calling enhanced interrogation?
Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy wants an independent investigation of Bush administration officials. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers feels the Justice Department should investigate and prosecute anyone who violated laws against committing torture. Are these and other similarly minded Democrats willing to have Mrs. Pelosi thrown into their stew of torture conspirators as an accomplice?
It is clear that after the 9/11 attacks Mrs. Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques and the valuable information they produced. She not only agreed with what was being done, she apparently pressed the CIA to do more.
But when political winds shifted, Mrs. Pelosi seems to have decided to use enhanced interrogation as an issue to attack Republicans. It is disgraceful that Democrats who discovered their outrage years after the fact are now braying for disbarment of the government lawyers who justified EITs and the prosecution of Bush administration officials who authorized them. Mrs. Pelosi is hip-deep in dangerous waters, and they are rapidly rising.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
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