House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued at a press conference Thursday that Republicans are focusing on how much she knew about CIA enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002 and 2003 as a "diversionary tactic to take the spotlight off those who conceived, developed and implemented these policies, which all of us long opposed."
Yet, Pelosi's failure to protest what she alternately calls "enhanced interrogation methods" and "torture" -- depending on whether the controversy threatens to make her look bad or the Bush administration -- goes to the very heart of whether or not the "truth commission" she supports is anything more than an exercise in cynical partisan finger-pointing.
If Pelosi believes that the use of these techniques -- including waterboarding -- was so patently objectionable, why did she not use her political capital to end the practices as soon as she learned of them?
Pelosi rejects a timeline released by the CIA that states that, as ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, she received a Sept. 4, 2002, "briefing on EITs" and their use with al-Qaida biggie Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded.
Thus Pelosi supported remarks she had at an April press conference: "We were not, I repeat, were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel -- the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would." That is, the CIA did not tell her it was waterboarding detainees.
Former GOP House Intelligence Committee Chairman turned Bush-CIA-chief Porter Goss disagreed. He wrote a piece for the Washington Post in which he claimed that Pelosi and others "understood what the CIA was doing" and "gave the CIA our bipartisan support."
The nonpartisan website PolitiFact.com gave Pelosi an unambiguous "false" rating on its Truth-O-Meter, with the explanation: "At PolitiFact, we normally would be reluctant to make a Truth-O-Meter ruling in a he-said, she-said situation, but in this case, the evidence goes beyond the competing accounts from Pelosi and Goss. We are persuaded by the CIA timeline, which the agency says is based on 'an extensive review of (the CIA's) electronic and hardcopy files.'"
Thursday, Pelosi claimed outright that the CIA had misled her about what it was doing in the 2002 briefing -- and called for the release of documents to verify her version of events.