Pelosi Fights Back

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today repeated her claim that she was not briefed by the CIA on harsh interrogation tactics and suggested (as Republican Pete Hoekstra has) that the CIA should "release the briefings" it gave to her and Rep. Porter Goss, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, in 2002. This, in effect, keeps the idea of investigating the Bush administration alive.

"They talked about the interrogations they had done and said that we want to use enhanced techniques and we have legal opinions saying we can...and we are not using waterboarding," Pelosi said of her 2002 briefing with intelligence officials.

In an exchange with a reporter who pressed her, Pelosi said "We were told that they had legal opinions that this was lega, we were not told that there were other legal opinions to the contrary in the administration, and we were told specifically that waterboarding had not been used."

Pelosi accused the Bush administration of "misleading the Congress of the United States." When asked if the CIA was again misleading people by claiming it briefed her on its use of waterboarding, Pelosi said, "We don't know if this information is" accurate.

"And perhaps they should release the briefings. And then you will see what they briefed in one time and another...and then you can make a judgment for yourself," Pelosi said.

Hoekstra recently suggested the CIA release its notes of the briefings it delivered to members of Congress; it's likely Pelosi was referring to either the same notes. or fuller transcripts of the breifings.

Pelosi said she became aware of waterboarding at a later time, when she heard that other members had been briefed on it--after she was no longer on the House Intelligence Committee--but she asserted she had not been briefed herself.

One question this raises for waterboarding opponents and/or Pelosi critics is: should Pelosi have raised objections sooner, at that later date, despite the fact that she hadn't been briefed? As Pelosi's remarks today are vetted and broken down further, the timeline should become clearer, and this question will probably get answered.

This, in essence, is a doubling down on the part of Pelosi. Republicans have hammered her for claiming she did not know waterboarding was being used (most recently in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Karl Rove), despite an intelligence report, release last week, claiming she was in fact briefed on waterboarding in 2002.

Hoekstra and Rove suggested that any investigation of interrogation tactics must include an investigation of what members of Congress knew and when they knew it--most significantly, Pelosi. This would seem to diminish the chances that Democrats could enact the sort of truth commission--an independent panel to investigation the government's use of interrogation tactics (and, broadly, issues of executive power and civil liberties that could include wiretapping).

The most fully articulated plan has been forwarded by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, and if such a commission would be damaging to Pelosi, it's unlikely that it would be passed by House Democrats.

But Pelosi stood by her support for a truth commission at today's press conference, in addition to suggesting that more information about the breifings be released. So it appears the idea of an independent investigation is still alive, despite Republicans' efforts to tie Pelosi to the investigation and suggest that if Democrats want to take down the people who supported waterboarding, they're going to have to take down Pelosi as well.

Hoekstra said he personally reviewed the CIA briefing notes before he called for their release. "This is not about one person," he said, but rather about transparency.

Pelosi did make a broader point about the whole matter, dismissing the significance of whether or not she protested at all--even if she had been briefed on waterboarding (though she didn't say it in those words): "They didn't tell us everything they were doing, and the fact is it didn't matter anything that we would say anyway. We had to change the majority in Congress, we had to change the president."