Richard Milhous Pelosi

“I have today issued another written statement, which addresses the charges that have been made since then as they relate to my own conduct, and which describes the efforts that I made to discover the facts about the matter…I stated in very specific terms — and I state again to every one of you listening tonight these facts — I had no prior knowledge of [it]; I neither took part in nor knew about any of the subsequent cover-up activities…That was and that is the simple truth.”

No, that was not House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s latest speech re-explaining her knowledge that CIA interrogators waterboarded terrorist detainees.  It’s an excerpt from Richard Nixon’s August 15, 1973 speech denying involvement in the Watergate break-ins.  

In an April 23 news conference, Pelosi — denying that she had been briefed by the CIA in September 2002 on the fact that waterboarding had been performed on detainees — said, “At that or any other briefing, and that was the only briefing that I — that I was briefed on in that regard — we were not — I repeat — were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel — the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would.”  

When asked about her rights and responsibilities in that same news conference, Pelosi said, “They don’t come in to consult. They come in to notify. They come in to notify. And you can’t — you can’t change what they’re doing unless you can act as a committee or as a class. You can’t change what they’re doing.”

On May 15, Pelosi told an MSNBC interviewer, “The CIA briefed me only once on some enhanced interrogation techniques, in September 2002, in my capacity as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee. I was informed then that Department of Justice opinions had concluded that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was legal. The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed.”

According to a CIA chronology first reported by HUMAN EVENTS on May 7 — Pelosi had been briefed on the use of waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah on September 4, 2002.
The CIA compilation says that Pelosi was one of two members of Congress — the chairman and ranking minority member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — who attended a September 4, 2002 briefing described as, “Briefing on EITs [enhanced interrogation methods] including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed.” (Emphasis added).

And then came her bombshell.  At a May 14 news conference, she was accused of complicity in the waterboarding because she hadn’t done anything to stop it.  

Pelosi accused the CIA of lying to Congress.  

The following day, CIA Director Leon Panetta said, in a statement to all CIA employees and released to the press, “Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” (Emphasis added.)

Panetta — a former Clinton White House chief of staff — is a partisan Democrat.  If there were any way to help Pelosi, he’d do it.  So is the CIA lying?  Not according to the only other member of Congress present in the September 4, 2002 briefing.  

In an April 25 op-ed in the Washington Post, Porter Goss wrote, “Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as “waterboarding” were never mentioned.”

Goss went on, writing that, “We understood what the CIA was doing. We gave the CIA our bipartisan support. We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities. On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.”

What about Pelosi’s claims that “you can’t change what they’re doing unless you can act as a committee or as a class. You can’t change what they’re doing.” Sen. Christopher Bond, ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told me in an April 24 interview that, “We know that when we object to planned activities by the CIA, they don’t do it.”

The idea that she couldn’t send a classified letter to the CIA objecting to waterboarding in 2002 doesn’t pass the giggle test.  

The same can be said of her claim that she couldn’t do anything to affect CIA waterboarding in early 2003 when she admits her staffer was briefed on CIA use of waterboarding and told her of it.  Though she wasn’t at the later time the ranking member of the HPSCI, as a top ranking Democrat, she wasn’t disenfranchised from sending a letter of objection then, either.

Pelosi, like Nixon, is caught in her own web of denials.  She knew waterboarding was being employed and did nothing to stop it.  Her continued denials only dig her hole deeper in a failed Watergate-like cover-up, and she knows it.  Her body language in the May 14 press conference, fumbling with papers and flustered stops and starts all betray her intent to mislead.  

Pelosi knew about the waterboarding and did nothing to stop it.  She is caught between the facts and her own radicalism in condemning the CIA.  

Those who are calling for Pelosi’s resignation are wrong. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi is the second-ranking leader of her party.  She sets the agenda for the House and manages votes on every bill.  And she is a perfect symbol of the Democrats’ hyper-liberalism.

Republicans must not miss the opportunity to make Pelosi’s cover-up Obama’s, because it is. Last week, Obama turned down former Vice President Cheney’s request for the release of more CIA records showing that the enhanced interrogations — including waterboarding — produced intelligence that enabled us to prevent other terrorist attacks: that they saved American lives.

Republicans have to offer an amendment compelling the release of those documents on every bill that comes to a vote in the House and Senate. In every debate on every measure — from closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to Waxman’s “cap-and-tax” global warming economy-killer — the Pelosi-Obama cover-up has to be a major part of the Republican opposition.

How many so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats — they who claim to embrace conservative positions on national defense — want to face the voters next year with Nancy Pelosi sitting on their shoulders?  Let’s hope the Democrats don’t remove her from the Speakership before November 2010.