In which Nancy Pelosi tortures the truth

Nancy Pelosi has a tall tale regarding her purported ignorance of the enhanced interrogation techniques that President Obama and Pelosi’s fellow Democrats condemn as “torture.” Pelosi boldly denied she had been informed of the actual use of the techniques in the briefings she received as a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Huck Finn would have called Pelosi’s tale a “stretcher.” Here is Pelosi’s classic “stretcher” of April 23:

“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.”

Pelosi’s “stretcher” impelled former House Intelligence Committee chairman and CIA director Porter Goss to contradict her. Charles Krauthammer condemned Pelosi as “utterly contemptible.” Now the intelligence community is having its own say. The Washington Post reports:

Intelligence officials released documents this evening saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda prisoners, seemingly contradicting her repeated statements over the past 18 months that she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.

In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress ever briefed on the interrogation tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The memo, issued by the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency to Capitol Hill, notes the Pelosi-Goss briefing covered “EITs including the use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah.” EIT is an acronym for enhanced interrogation technique. Zubaydah was one of the earliest valuable al-Qaeda members captured and the first to have the controversial tactic known as water boarding used against him.

ABC News adds:

The report also details dozens of other meetings with members of Congress — though not with Pelosi present — where the use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques was described.

The Senate intelligence committee’s chairman and ranking member, Bob Graham and Richard Shelby, were given a briefing similar to the one with Pelosi and Goss on Sept. 27, 2002, according to the report.

On Feb. 4, 2003, a briefing on “enhanced interrogation techniques” for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., revealed that interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri were taped.

In addition, that briefing “described in considerable details” the techniques used, including “how the water board was used.”

A similar briefing the following day included Goss and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who by that time had become the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, when Pelosi moved on to become minority leader.

The report is accompanied by a letter from CIA Director Leon Panetta to intelligence committee leaders that describes the way it was compiled: “This letter presents the most thorough information we have on dates, locations, and names of all Members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques. This information, however, is drawn from the past files of the CIA and represents [memorandums for the record] completed at the time and notes that summarized the best recollections of those individuals. In the end, you and the Committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened. We can make the MFRs available at CIA for staff review.”

Josh Gerstein has more here; Glenn Thrush has more here. Gerstein posts the CIA summary of the meetings.

I think we can fairly draw at least one conclusion from this episode. The case of Nancy Pelosi provides the key to the “torture” controversy. It is a partisan charade. And it is a charade of a particularly disgusting kind. The Democrats’ “torture” charade is a case of low politics masquerading as high principle.

UPDATE: Jules Crittenden provides a good roundup of unfriendly commentary, and Tom Maguire disposes of lame apologetics on behalf of Pelosi.

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