Friday, April 24, 2009

Pelosi Briefing on Interrogation Techniques

Glenn Thrush at notes that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has denied knowledge about interrogation practices, was actually present at a 2002 briefing where, reportedly, techniques like water boarding were described in detail. There are conflicting positions and information, but Pelosi's own staff admitted she was there:
A Pelosi spokesman passes along her response to the article when it first appeared, claiming that Pelosi's successor on the intel committee -- Yep, Jane Harman -- lodged a protest with the CIA when she learned waterboarding was in use.
"On one occasion, in the fall of 2002, I was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future. The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.

I had no further briefings on the techniques. Several months later, my successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed. It was my understanding at that time that Congresswoman Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred."
Lower down in the article, the authors and their sources acknowledge Pelosi & Co. were severely constrained in what they could do with the information
I know that Members of Congress go to a lot of briefings and sometimes forget if they were actually there or if a staff member briefed them later. But this is a big issue and the Democrats are making a mountain out of the issue.

This time, I think Pelosi & Co. are really stepping in it big time. Objecting to something nine years after you were first briefed on it smacks of political opportunism. The only way out is if Nancy Pelosi can find a letter she wrote to the Bush Administration objecting to the waterboarding practice. But remember, in 2002 (the date is no certain), this was a country still healing after 9/11 and Pelosi was probably in a different political "mindset."

There in lies the problem for Pelosi, her moral compass is attuned to her political compass a little too much. If waterboarding is objectionable now on moral grounds, why wasn't it objectionable in 2002? Was 9/11 a factor? Maybe, and maybe not. But I think Pelosi thought the matter politically expedient in 2002 when the U.S. and ambitious politicians likes Nancy Pelosi had to look tough on terrorism. Today, well it is not as important to look tough on terrorism as it is to appear to be morally outraged that your political opponents used an interrogation technique that is out of favor.

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