Last April Nancy Pelosi sparked a furor when she claimed that the CIA was always lying to Congress. Additionally her contention was she was briefed by Bush administration officials on the legal justification for using water boarding, but they never told her the technique was actually being used. It was the Nancy Pelosi version of “I tried it but I never inhaled.”
“In that or any other briefing we were not, and I repeat, were 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,”
Then in May the self-proclaimed most powerful woman in the world was backed into a corner. At the time of her weekly press briefing, Pelosi had been forced to acknowledge that in February 2003, she was told that waterboarding was being used. When asked why she didn’t say anything about it then, she threw Rep. Jane Harmon under the bus:
Flustered, Pelosi claimed that it was not her place to complain because she was no longer the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee. “A letter raising concerns was sent to CIA general counsel Scott Muller by the new Democratic ranking member of [the] committee [Jane Harman], the appropriate person to register a protest.” She made this claim five times during the briefing.
Pelosi’s claim that Congresswoman Harmon protested was a lie,
In fact, Harman’s letter, since declassified, did not “register a protest”; it asked “what kind of policy review took place” and urged the agency not to destroy interrogation tapes. Moreover, when Pelosi made this claim, she knew that in 2004, when she was no longer the committee’s ranking member, she had personally intervened with the White House to stop different covert action. She did not defer to Harman; she herself took action. Why was it “appropriate” for her to intervene then but not in the case of waterboarding?
HUH? If Pelosi felt comfortable stopping one CIA operation as minority leader, why not waterboarding? I don’t want to sound cynical but could it be that she didn’t think it was a political issue back then?
A year after she learned about waterboarding she did stop a CIA operation:
In mid-2004, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi learned something from a CIA briefing that made her blood boil. Pelosi reportedly “came unglued” at the revelation and had “strong words” with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, demanding that the CIA abandon its plans. As a result, a top-secret finding that President George W. Bush signed to authorize the CIA’s activities was revised. Pelosi succeeded in stopping the agency from moving forward with the controversial operation.
What drove Pelosi to action? Not the CIA’s waterboarding of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists. In a 2009 interview, a former senior Bush administration official directed me to a little-noticed item from Time magazine. According to this 2004 report, Pelosi objected to a CIA plan to provide money to moderate political parties in Iraq ahead of scheduled elections, in an effort to counter Iran, which was funneling millions to extremist elements. “House minority leader Nancy Pelosi ‘came unglued’ when she learned about what a source described as a plan for ‘the CIA to put an operation in place to affect the outcome of the elections,’ ” Time reported. “Pelosi had strong words with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in a phone call about the issue. . . A senior U.S. official hinted that, under pressure from the Hill, the Administration scaled back its original plans.” (Her role was also reported on this page by David Ignatius in 2007.)
Here comes the fun part? On her May 14, 2009 press breifing , Pelosi declared that she had opposed CIA waterboarding but was powerless to stop it. In other words, she tried it, had indeed inhaled, but didn’t enjoy it.
Journalists did not question Pelosi’s claims — and then they stopped questioning her. Pelosi announced that she would not take more questions on the topic, and the media complied. Reporters who relentlessly chased the Valerie Plame leak let the story drop. Pelosi’s role in stopping another covert operation gives lie to her claims that she was powerless to stop waterboarding — but the Washington press corps failed to “connect the dots.” Now that the truth is out, will they continue to let her get away with not answering questions? We’ll learn the answer at her next press briefing.
Mark Thiessen reports in the Washington Post:
A former senior intelligence official told me in 2009 that he was shocked by Pelosi’s claim because, he said, “Speaker Pelosi herself has stopped covert action programs that she has been briefed on by going to the White House. In that very same time frame [after she learned about waterboarding] Pelosi had gone back to the White House [over] a separate covert action program, expressed strong opposition to it. And the remarkable part to me, the White House backed off the program, changed one aspect of the program . . . she was particularly opposed to. And literally, the finding was pulled back and revised.” If Pelosi had truly opposed waterboarding, he said, she had numerous ways to stop it — but she didn’t try.
Truth be told, when Pelosi learned about Waterboarding, she thought it was the right thing to do, but when she saw it as political opening, WHAM, she put our lives in danger to score political points