Current CIA Director Leon Panetta agreed with Goss. In a memo to CIA employees, Panetta said, "CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'" Panetta also wrote: "Our task is to tell it like it is -- even if that's not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it."
Now, the retreat.
Before declaring in a news conference that she no longer wants to stress the matter, Pelosi praised the CIA. Pelosi said, "My criticism of the manner in which the Bush Administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe." Does her respect extend to former CIA head George Tenet? Tenet served under former Presidents Clinton and Bush. As for believing Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, Tenet described the case as a "slam-dunk." Does she now "respect" that he made that assertion in good faith?
So, what does all of this tell us?
It tells us that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, most Americans -- including the Democratic leadership in Congress -- wanted to prevent another attack. Despite their newfound "outrage" over torture, people like Speaker Nancy Pelosi understood, accepted and even encouraged harsh interrogation techniques to prevent another attack.
As to the case for war, all 16 intelligence agencies concluded -- at the highest level of probability -- that Saddam Hussein possessed those stockpiles. Yet people like Sen. Ted Kennedy said things like "week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie." And many Americans -- especially those predisposed to believe the worst of the Bush administration -- completely bought it. "Bush lied, people died" became a refrain uttered endlessly by Bush haters.
But Bush didn't lie -- and the Democrats know it. Indeed, to extricate herself from Torture-gate, Pelosi now compliments the CIA, the very agency Bush relied on in making the case for war.
But public opinion turned against the war. Then waterboarding became "torture." And Bush became not simply a commander in chief who, in good faith, relied on near unanimous but faulty intelligence. He became, as then-Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "a loser" and "a liar."