Pelosi Accuses CIA of Lying; GOP Defends Agency

Posted May 14, 2009 at 11:17am

Updated: 1:41 p.m.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back hard against the controversy over what she knew, and when, about harsh Bush-era interrogation techniques by accusing the CIA of lying to her in a classified briefing on the matter in September 2002.

“At every step of the way, the administration was misleading the Congress. And that is the issue,— Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

The Speaker defended her decision not to speak out more forcefully five months later, when a top aide was briefed that interrogators had been waterboarding detainees.

“No letter or anything else was going to stop them from doing what they were going to do. My job was to change the majority in the Congress,— Pelosi said. She pointed to a letter of protest that Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, sent to the CIA as the appropriate channel for top Democrats to register an objection.

Pelosi said she would be “very happy— for the CIA to release the full details of their briefings of Congressional leaders.

The agency last week released a summary of those sessions, revealing that Pelosi was told about the harsh tactics seven years ago. The Speaker on Thursday stuck to her contention that those who briefed her at the time only told lawmakers that they had the legal authority to use the procedures.

Interrogators had already used waterboarding on terrorist suspects dozens of times by then, declassified information has revealed.

“They talked about interrogations that they had done, and said, We want to use enhanced techniques and we have legal opinions that say they are OK. We are not using waterboarding.’— Pelosi said of the September briefing. “That’s the only mention that they were not using it. And we now know that earlier they were. So yes, I’m saying that the CIA was misleading the Congress.—

Meanwhile, Republican leaders immediately derided Pelosi’s statements. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said her comments “continue to raise more questions than provide answers.—

“I have dealt with our intelligence professionals for the last three and a half years on an almost daily basis, and it’s hard for me to imagine that anyone in our intelligence area would ever misled a Member of Congress,— he said.

“What is this, like version 3.0 from Nancy’s perspective of what happened in that meeting?— asked Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra said Pelosi’s charge against the CIA is “a very, very serious charge. I’m not a lawyer, but I would expect that Congress would treat that as a crime.—

Senate Intelligence ranking member Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said he thinks it is “outrageous— that Pelosi would call “terror fighters … liars.—

And Bond rejected Pelosi’s claim that the only action she could have taken to stop the torture policy was to focus on electing a Democratic Congress and president. Pelosi could have brought in leadership, raised questions during a floor speech or used the appropriations process to protest certain policies, he said.

“There are a whole range of actions, and she did not take them,— Bond said.

Jackie Kucinich and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.