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Friday, May 15, 2009

In-Fighting Starts Early in Obama Administration: Pelosi: CIA Lied, Leon Panetta: No, We Didn't

A firestorm of controversy has surrounded Nancy Pelosi about what she knew and when she knew about the use of water boarding. She has sudden outrage over the practice that many say she knew of years ago and said nothing about her disapproval.

Now, she said that when she was supposedly briefed about the subject the CIA lied to her and to the rest of Congress:

Under strong attack from Republicans, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the CIA and Bush administration of misleading her about waterboarding detainees in the war on terror and sharply rebutted claims she was complicit in its use.

"To the contrary ... we were told explicitly that waterboarding was not being used," she told reporters, referring to a formal CIA briefing she received in the fall of 2002.

Pelosi said she subsequently learned that other lawmakers were told several months later by the CIA about the use of waterboarding.

"I wasn't briefed, I was informed that somebody else had been briefed about it," she said.


She was the head of the Intelligence Committee in 2002. She had to have been briefed. She wouldn't have been briefed that someone else was briefed.

But Pelosi defended her own lack of action on the issue, saying her focus at the time was on wresting congressional control from Republicans so her party could change course.

"No letter could change the policy. It was clear we had to change the leadership in Congress and in the White House. That was my job—the Congress part," Pelosi said.

While it is true that no single letter could have changed the policy, she didn't have to stop at just one letter if she really cared as much as she says she does. She could've shouted it from the mountaintops, but she didn't say one word for years.

In response to her excuse of her only job being helping Democrats get elected, don't you think that if she would've blown the whistle about waterboarding in 2002-3 when she was told about the enhanced interrogation techniques, it would have possibly helped John Kerry and other Democrats get elected, assuming voters were actually on her side? If it was that egregious she should have talked about it back then in either role
she carried.

This is what Leon Panetta had to confute:

Pelosi was particularly harsh in describing the CIA.

"They mislead us all the time," she said.

And when a reporter asked whether the agency lied, she did not disagree.

Here is his rebuttal:

CIA Director Leon Panetta challenged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s accusations that the agency lied to her, writing a memo to his agents saying she received nothing but the truth.

Panetta said that "ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened."

So, he pretty much called Pelosi a liar. Leon went on in his agency-wide CIA memo:

Panetta, President Obama's pick to run the clandestine agency and President Clinton's former chief of staff, wrote in a memo to CIA employees Friday that "CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed,'" according to CIA records.

"We are an agency of high integrity, professionalism and dedication," Panetta said in the memo. "Our task is to tell it like it is — even if that’s not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it."

In the pep talk-style memo titled "Turning Down the Volume," Panetta encourages CIA employees to return to their normal business and not to be distracted by the shout-fest Pelosi's remarks created."

My advice — indeed, my direction — to you is straightforward: Ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission," Panetta wrote. "We have too much work to do to be distracted from our job of protecting this country."

This whole thing has blown up to now include calls for her resignation and plenty of heat from the left and right. Maybe, Nancy can keep her foot out of her mouth long enough to have this blow over, but it seems to have possibly a life of its own. It could end up costing her chairmanship or even her seat in the House next year.

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