CIA Director Leon Panetta must be President Obama's loneliest lieutenant.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused the CIA of misleading Congress, forcing Panetta to publicly defend his agency against not only a leader of his own country but of his own party.
Meanwhile, President Obama has not defended either his CIA director or the CIA itself.
At White House press briefings Friday and Monday, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs declined to rebut Pelosi's attack on the CIA or endorse Panetta's defense of the agency.
At her May 14 press conference, Pelosi accused the CIA of giving her "inaccurate and incomplete information" at a September 2002 briefing and of "misleading the Congress of the United States." In fact, she said, "They mislead us all the time."
The specific issue was whether the CIA had informed Pelosi in its 2002 briefing that "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- including waterboarding -- had been used on the al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah.
"The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed," said Pelosi. "Those conducting the briefing promised to inform the appropriate members of Congress if that technique were to be used in the future."
The day after Pelosi said this, Panetta contradicted her.
"Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress," Panetta said in a statement to CIA employees. "That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'"
So who is telling the truth? Pelosi or Panetta?
On Friday, citing Panetta's rebuttal of Pelosi, a reporter asked Gibbs: "Does this White House agree with the speaker that the CIA lied to her? Does it have any opinion on the propriety of airing that kind of accusation publicly?"
"I think you've heard the president say this a number of times: The best thing that we can do is to look forward," said Gibbs. "The president is spending his time on any number of issues, including keep the American people safe, by looking forward."
When the reporter pressed for an answer, Gibbs said, "I appreciate the invitation to get involved in here, but I'm not going to RSVP."
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