Debra J. Saunders
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There was a new development at the Thursday press event: Pelosi admitted that, as House speaker, she learned about the use of "certain techniques" -- apparently, including waterboarding -- in February 2003, after the CIA briefed Republicans, a Pelosi intelligence aide (Michael Sheehy) and her replacement as senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice (Los Angeles County).

While Pelosi did nothing to try to stop waterboarding, she explained, Harman was "the appropriate person to register a protest" -- as Harman did in a letter to CIA counsel Scott Muller.

Protest? The letter, which reads like the weakest of weak editorials, Harman -- see sidebar -- began with an homage to the "difficult balance between security and liberty," then observed that Bush lawyers assured those at the briefing that the (words redacted) techniques to be "within the law." She noted "that what was described raises profound policy questions" and asked if Bush had authorized them. In the letter, Harman seems most concerned not with waterboarding, but with the CIA inspector general's plan to destroy videotape of Zubaydah. She urged the CIA to reconsider, as the "fact of destruction would reflect badly on the Agency."

That's the big protest -- that the use of these methods "raises profound policy questions." Talk about feckless. As for Pelosi, her stilted explanations on the subject are even more unimpressive. Clearly, she painted herself into a corner -- and then made matters worse when she was forced to admit that she knew about waterboarding in 2003.

If the CIA's interrogation methods were so outrageous that they now warrant a "truth commission" -- a process likely to destroy the careers of Bush administration and CIA officials who supported the policies -- why is it that they did not even rate a milquetoast memo when the San Francisco Democrat learned of them?

I have to assume that Pelosi did not see these acts as criminal -- that waterboarding did not become "torture" until it was politically expedient for the Democrat leadership to label it so. As Pelosi made clear, she was busy trying to win the House back for Democrats. Her priorities were clear. It was "my job," Pelosi said, to win elections.

A final riddle: How do you turn something Pelosi has denounced as "torture" into "certain techniques?" Add the words: CIA briefing.

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Debra J. Saunders


 
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