interrogation imbroglio

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The he-said/she-said situation between Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi that I mentioned here became even more contentious with the release of some CIA briefing notes. WaPo's article "CIA Says Pelosi Was Briefed" lays it out like this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda prisoners, seemingly contradicting her repeated statements over the past 18 months that she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.

Pelosi's spokesperson Brendan Daly said:

"As this document shows, the Speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002. The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used."

Upon hearing that the Bushies considered their torture techniques to be legal, Pelosi should have assumed that such techniques were intended to be used. Any other position is self-serving naïvete. From the Left is calling for Pelosi's resignation, while others--such as emptywheel--are skeptical of the CIA's claims, given the agency's pervious veracity problems. In particular, emptywheel notes that the CIA's list of briefings "doesn't mention waterboarding specifically in its description of that briefing (it does in quite a few others)."

ThinkProgress notes the CIA's disclaimer ("you and the committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened") and observes that "the CIA briefed Pelosi without staff, told her their practices were legal, and forbade her from discussing the meeting with colleagues." There is no doubt that had Pelosi would have suffered for daring to challenge the Bushevik legal machine at the height of their "Saddam Hussein = bin Laden with WMDs" full-court press, and John Byrne at Raw Story notes the potential legal ramifications:

It's important to note that all of the briefings were held in secret, and that lawmakers could have faced criminal prosecution if they spoke out. However, at least two Democrats did lodge complaints: Sen. Rockefeller, expressed his disapproval of items he learned during the briefings in a personal, hand-written letter to Vice President Dick Cheney; while, as the Washington Post revealed in December of 2007 that in 2003 Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) "filed a classified letter to the CIA...as an official protest about the interrogation program."

Mcjoan at DailyKos sees the larger picture:

Obviously Republicans fear what investigations could lead to, as does the CIA. Their leaders committed war crimes and they know it, and if they're going down, they'll take Democrats with them. It's entirely possible that the few Democrats briefed early on were told that waterboarding had been used, but these documents don't prove that.

This episode is further evidence that we need criminal investigations from a special
prosecutor, who would be as removed as possible (though obviously not entirely) from the politics of the story.

Scott Horton at Harper's notes that "the ground rules of these intelligence briefings require the silence of those who are briefed" and asks, "is it appropriate to gag Congressional leaders this way?"

Critics of such an effort [a probe into the Bush Program] have long seen the fact that Democratic Congressional leaders were briefed about the program as an Achilles heel. Use it to embarrass the Democratic leadership, they think, and any probe will be shut down. So it's suspicious when the two prime figures in the briefing group, Jane Harman and Nancy Pelosi, suddenly become the targets of mysterious leaks sourced from the CIA or figures close to it. Extreme skepticism is warranted.

Horton's conclusion is that "The system failed over the last eight years:"

We need to ascertain exactly how it failed in order to prevent future incidents. And we need to give Pelosi credit for pushing for a probe, even when its results may well prove embarrassing to her. In this war of words, my instincts are clear. I'll go with the people who are pushing for disclosure and candor over supposedly well-intentioned guardians of the deep-dark secrets who hide in the shadows.

Agreed: let's have an investigation, without regard to party affiliation.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on May 11, 2009 5:50 PM.

extraordinary rendition was the previous entry in this blog.

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