CIA is refusing to back down in face of Speaker Pelosi’s carefully worded denials that she had been fully briefed on expanded interrogation techniques that some have chosen to label torture – an emotionally loaded but practically ambiguous term that apparently no longer means what it used to:
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.
The interesting thing for me here is not that a politician might choose to dissemble over an embarrassing revelation, but that an arm of the federal bureaucracy would so deliberately impeach one of the most powerful (and vindictive) members of the political branch. CIA could have chosen to let sleeping dogs lie and give Pelosi a pass, but instead the spooks chose to publicly confront her with inconvenient facts.
There are any number of ways for a Speaker of the House to make things uncomfortable for an adversary that depends upon the disbursal of public funds and who can arrogate to herself (or her proxies) broad and penetrating oversight responsibilities. Either they’ve got more on her than they’re showing and this is a shot across the bow, or else they’ve taken the measure of her juice and they’re just not that impressed.