I can understand why, back in 2005, the CIA destroyed tapes showing its agents using "waterboarding" on notorious terrorists. My guess is that the tapes would reveal them all having a lot of fun. There the Rev. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be seen waterboarding like mad, his baseball hat turned backward, his eyes alight with excitement. There Mr. Abu Zubaydah can be seen having an equally exciting time, possibly gurgling a bit, but riding his waterboard to the limit. And on the sidelines can be seen the dusky chaps’ new best friends from the Langley Aquatics and Waterboarding Club, applauding and urging the chaps on.
Does the above paragraph strike you as absurd? Well, it is no more absurd than the indignation vented last week by assorted eminences in Congress. The congressional indignados, led by the Hon. Nancy Pelosi, squeaker of the House of Representatives, affect outrage over the "harsh" interrogation measures used in 2002 against several terrorists, two of whom are manifestly evil anti-Americans. The others have yet to be identified. It now turns out that back then, the Hon. Pelosi and other key members of Congress were fully informed of these interrogation measures, which they approved and with good reason.
One of the terrorists introduced to the delights of waterboarding, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, actually planned Sept. 11. How long it took him to confess to that and to other barbarisms I do not know, but former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou told ABC that after weeks of uncooperative silence, the other identified terrorist, Zubaydah, an al-Qaida kingpin, broke 35 seconds into his waterboarding session. "From that day on, he answered every question," reported Kiriakou, who added that the information offered was critical to protecting America and pursuing terrorists. At the time, we had every reason to anticipate more attacks. That no further Sept. 11s have taken place in six years speaks well for the efficacy of waterboarding.
Unfortunately, in the Democrats’ campaign to turn this war into a partisan political issue, the interrogation of some of the most vicious brutes ever to be captured by American forces has become "controversial." Hence Squeaker Pelosi and other members of Congress apparently have completely forgotten that they were briefed on the 2002 interrogations. Were it not for the Washington Post news story Sunday (headlined "Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002") revealing that they were, the histrionics on Capitol Hill would continue. As it is, committee hearings will take place, and CIA operatives will be embarrassed and perhaps indicted.
The congressional indignados’ residual complaint is that the CIA destroyed the tapes of their 2002 waterboarding festival. I ask you, which is more reprehensible: destroying those tapes or lying to the American people about one’s knowledge of the "harsh" interrogations? Actually, I have understated the misbehavior of the mendacious members of Congress. They not only are deceiving us about their knowledge but also are threatening CIA agents for interrogations that former CIA Director Porter Goss says had their "approval and encouragement."
This is not the first time members of Congress have abandoned the CIA when its actions became controversial. During the Reagan administration, we witnessed a similar display of congressional cowardice and opportunism. In 1984, after it was reported that the CIA had mined harbors in Communist-controlled Nicaragua, leading figures on the congressional intelligence committees played the role of the congressional indignado. They insisted that the CIA actions had taken place without the knowledge of congressional intelligence committees. Some committee members called for CIA Director William Casey’s head. Casey responded by reminding them that he had briefed committee chairmen three times in early 1984. Eventually the CIA revealed 11 congressional briefings had taken place.
Not everyone in Congress joined in the melodrama against our own security personnel in 1984. Rep. Henry Hyde wrote a memorable piece wherein he questioned whether Congress was even capable of intelligence oversight once a national security matter had become subject to partisan bickering. Hyde passed away two weeks ago, but wherever he is today, the Hon. Pelosi has answered his question.