Three years ago, I wrote a satirical column "defending" Nancy Pelosi against accusations that she had lied publicly about being briefed by the CIA about the use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) -- including waterboarding -- on enemy detainees as far back as 2002. Here's her infamous denial:
The evidence against Pelosi was so strong that her tale could only be explained one of two ways: Either (a) she was lying, or (b) a vast conspiracy had constructed a web of deceit to ensnare her. Occam's Razor revealed the truth, of course, but my column was premised on describing just how implausible the 'anti-Pelosi witch hunt' theory really was. As of that writing, we knew that two separate members of the House Intelligence Committee had personally attested to her presence at a private 2002 briefing, at which EITs were thoroughly described. A contemporaneous CIA report also confirmed Pelosi's presence at the briefing, specifying that members were informed about the existence and use of these EITs. A 2007 Washington Post account corroborated these facts. And yet, Pelosi stuck to her story. She claimed that she was not -- repeat: was not -- told about any of this, further asserting that the CIA had lied by explicitly assuring her that waterboarding had not been used. In case any shadow of doubt remained, a final piece of this puzzle has fallen into place. The former CIA counterterrorism chief who conducted the briefing in question has at last spoken out:
In his new book, “Hard Measures,” Jose Rodriguez reveals that he led a CIA briefing of Pelosi, where the techniques being used in the interrogation of senior al-Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaida were described in detail. Her claim that she was not told about waterboarding at that briefing, he writes, “is untrue.” “We explained that as a result of the techniques, Abu Zubaydah was compliant and providing good intelligence. We made crystal clear that authorized techniques, including waterboarding, had by then been used on Zubaydah.” Rodriguez writes that he told Pelosi everything, adding, “We held back nothing.” How did she respond when presented with this information? Rodriguez writes that neither Pelosi nor anyone else in the briefing objected to the techniques being used.
That's not merely Rodriguez's personal recollection; his memory is affirmed by yet another document:
Six days after the meeting took place, Rodriguez reveals, “a cable went out from headquarters to the black site informing them that the briefing for the House leadership had taken place.” He explains that “[t]he cable to the field made clear that Goss and Pelosi had been briefed on the state of AZ’s interrogation, specifically including the use of the waterboard and other enhanced interrogation techniques.”
To recap: Roughly one year after 9/11, Nancy Pelosi and other select members of Congress were told in great detail about a program of EITs that US interrogators were employing to wring actionable intelligence out of captured terrorists. No one objected. Years later, when Democrats were indignantly denouncing "torture" as an inexpiable sin of Bush and the Republicans, Pelosi disavowed any knowledge of the meeting she had attended. She deliberately lied about a sensitive national security question in order to score the cheapest of political points, tossing the American intelligence community under the bus in the process. This is absolutely shameful. House Democrats' code of Congressional conduct features the following passage, describing the grounds on which a member may be censured:
The authority to discipline by way of censure, reprimand or other such rebuke, however, has come to be recognized and accepted in congressional practice as extending to cases of “misconduct,” even outside of Congress, which the House finds to be reprehensible, and/or to reflect discredit on the institution, and which is, therefore, worthy of condemnation or rebuke.
If lying -- knowingly and repeatedly -- about a matter of national security in pursuit of a purely partisan end doesn't fit the bill for "reprehensible" behavior that "reflects discredit on the institution, I don't know what does. Her mendacity in this case is far more damaging to Congress and the nation than anything for which Anthony Weiner, for instance, was responsible. Pelosi remains the highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. Disgraceful.
UPDATE - Rodriguez sheds more light on how the use of EITs led to the eventual location and liquidation of Osama Bin Laden:
An al-Qa’ida operative was captured in 2004. He was quickly turned over to the CIA. He had computer discs with him that showed that he was relaying information between al-Qa’ida and Abu Musab Zarqawi… Initially, he played the role of a tough mujahideen and refused to cooperate. We then received permission to use some (but not all) of the EIT procedures on him. Before long he became compliant and started to provide some excellent information…. He told us that bin Ladin conducted business by using a trusted courier with whom he was in contact only sporadically. He said that the Sheikh (as bin Ladin was referred to by his subordinates) stayed completely away from telephones, radios, or the internet in an effort to frustrate American attempts to find him. And frustrated we were. We pressed him on who this courier was and he said all he knew was a pseudonym: “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.” This was a critical bit of information about the identity of the man who would eventually lead us to bin Ladin.
Also, the mere existence of the elusive courier was confirmed by 9/11 mastermind KSM, who was initially broken using waterboarding. Barack Obama "righteously" opposed these methods, without which he wouldn't be spiking the bin Laden football and casting aspersions for political gain today.
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