In response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s allegations that the CIA mislead her in a briefing about America’s enhanced interrogation program in 2002, House Minority Leader John Boehner recently said that the Speaker “ought to present the evidence or apologize to the CIA.”
The Speaker can stuff her sorrys in a sack, and there is little need for her to produce evidence that she most likely does not possess. We know all we need to know about this situation.
Pelosi’s story keeps changing, but during her first press conference on the matter in April, Pelosi said that when she was briefed by the CIA in 2002 she was only told by the CIA that waterboarding could be used, not that it had been used. As Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer noted, if Pelosi’s first account is accurate it is even more morally damning for Pelosi if she truly believes waterboarding is “torture.”
“If you are told about torture that has already occurred,” Krauthammer wrote in his May 1st column, “you might justify silence on the grounds that what's done is done and you are simply being used in a post-facto exercise to cover the CIA's rear end. The time to protest torture, if you really are as outraged as you now pretend to be, is when the CIA tells you what it is planning to do ‘in the future.’”
Even if you put aside Pelosi’s first comments on the matter, we know from Pelosi’s own admission that by 2003 she was fully aware that waterboarding had been used as an interrogation technique. If she was so aghast by this technique, one would imagine that Pelosi, then House Minority Leader, would have taken some type of action. Instead, she did nothing.
Still more damning to Pelosi, we know that in 2003 Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who was the new senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, wrote a formal letter of protest to the CIA after she learned about waterboarding. Now, I disagree with Harman on the substance of her complaint, but honest people can disagree over waterboarding. One must respect Harman for acting at the time on her convictions and registering her objection to a practice she disagreed with. Pelosi, however, did nothing of the sort.
While each new day seems to bring a new tale by Pelosi, the speaker continues to insist that she was misled in her initial 2002 briefing. But others say that it is Pelosi who is not telling the truth. Even current CIA Director Leon Panetta, an Obama appointee and longtime Democratic activist, has come on record to say that Pelosi is lying: "It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress,” Panetta said in a memo to CIA staffers. “CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'"
From Nancy Pelosi’s squirming, my guess it is the Speaker who is lying. But this debate is irrelevant. We know that Nancy Pelosi knew about waterboarding at least by 2003 and we know that she did not raise any objection whatsoever. And we know now that when the political winds shifted, Pelosi decided to decry waterboarding and to throw the CIA under the bus for employing it.
The CIA has taken a lot of flack over the last several years for some of its failures. Much of the criticism has been justified. But what our CIA agents don’t deserve is to be condemned by politicians who approve of something one day and then decide the next day that what they had approved is now utterly despicable. This is what Nancy Pelosi has done – cowardly abandoned the good and decent people who work at the CIA for interrogation techniques they employed, and of which she tacitly approved – techniques that appear to have kept the country safe.
The Speaker’s attack on the CIA is not only shameful, but morally repugnant. Worse, it continues to weaken our country by weakening the morale at the CIA – morale that is reportedly already quite low. The decent thing for Pelosi to do in these circumstances is not only to apologize, but also to resign her speakership.