Update: The Tale of Two Headlines ~ Both from Politico ~
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing back on GOP charges that she knew about waterboarding for years and did nothing.Pelosi says she was briefed by Bush administration officials on the legal justification for using waterboarding — but that they never followed through on promises to inform her when they actually began using “enhanced” interrogation techniques
“In that or any other briefing…we were not, and I repeat, we’re not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used. What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel … opinions that they could be used,” she told reporters today.
Nancy Pelosi denies knowing U.S. officials used waterboarding — but GOP operatives are pointing to a 2007 Washington Post story which describes an hour-long 2002 briefing in which Pelosi was told about enhanced interrogation techniques in graphic detail.Two unnamed officials told the paper that Pelosi, then a member of the Democratic minority, didn’t raise substantial objections.
Someones not telling the truth… [He asks in a higher octave inquisitive manner]
Here’s some of the more interesting “Memo” pieces I’ve seen over the past few days:
Democratic Leaders of Congress were briefed at more than 30 meetings on enhanced interrogation techniques since 2002.Speaker Pelosi was told about the interrogation of Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah that included waterboarding in 2002 and did not raise any objections.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair got it right last week when he noted how easy it is to condemn the enhanced interrogation program “on a bright sunny day in April 2009.” Reactions to this former CIA program, which was used against senior al Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003, are demonstrating how little President Barack Obama and some Democratic members of Congress understand the dire threats to our nation.George Tenet, who served as CIA director under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, believes the enhanced interrogations program saved lives. He told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in April 2007: “I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.”
Last week, Mr. Blair made a similar statement in an internal memo to his staff when he wrote that “[h]igh value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country.”
Yet last week Mr. Obama overruled the advice of his CIA director, Leon Panetta, and four prior CIA directors by releasing the details of the enhanced interrogation program. Former CIA director Michael Hayden has stated clearly that declassifying the memos will make it more difficult for the CIA to defend the nation.
President Barack Obama’s attempt to project legal and moral clarity on coercive CIA interrogation methods has instead done the opposite—creating confusion and political vulnerability over an issue that has inflamed both the left and right.In the most recent instance, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair acknowledged in a memo to the intelligence community that Bush-era interrogation practices yielded had “high-value information,” then omitted that admission from a public version of his assessment.
That leaves a top Obama administration official appearing to validate claims by former Vice President Dick Cheney that waterboarding and other techniques the White House regards as torture were effective in preventing terrorist attacks. And the press release created the impression the administration was trying to suppress this conclusion.
The president, who has said he wants to focus on the future rather than litigate the past, also opened himself to distraction and attack by retracting the earlier assurance by top officials that they had no plans to prosecute lawyers for former President George W. Bush who approved the “enhanced interrogation” program.
A Democratic strategist close to the White House said: “The president looked resolute, and like he had threaded the needle perfectly on the substance: The heat from the right was preposterous, and the heat from the left was manageable. But now they look like the scarecrow, pointing in both directions. They got the policy right, but they look confused and beaten down by critics.”
House Republican Leader John A. Boehner slammed proposals Thursday for investigations into harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, as a key Senate Republican accused the Obama administration of politicizing national security issues.With leading congressional Democrats calling for either committee hearings or an independent investigation into methods that critics say amounted to illegal torture, Boehner, R-Ohio, said such probes would yield nothing new and might even make the country less safe.
“I don’t see what we’re going to learn that congressional leaders didn’t already know,” Boehner said. He said that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Republican and Democratic leaders were regularly briefed on the interrogation of terrorism suspects and that as far as he knew, no one raised objections.
…..Boehner said Obama’s decision to release memos detailing harsh interrogation practices in the Bush administration will hurt national security. He said the release, and the possibility that some of those who drafted legal opinions allowing such treatment might face prosecution, “provides a chilling effect on intelligence officers.”
And he said, “I’m hopeful that Americans will begin to understand there is a bigger story here about what was done to keep America safe.”
The disclosure of the memos, Obama’s stated refusal to use the harsh techniques, and his decision to eventually close the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorism suspects also drew Boehner’s fire.
“What is the administration’s over-arching plan to take on terrorism and keep America safe?” he asked.
Boehner reacted strongly when he was asked about whether anyone from the Bush administration should pay a price for allowing torture.
“We’re talking about terrorists who are hell bent on killing Americans. 3,000 or our fellow citizens died. There were techniques that were used by Americans and our allies to help keep America safe. I’m not going to allow our professionals and our allies around the world to get denigrated because they were working to keep our country safe,” he told reporters.