Nancy Pelosi ‘was aware harsh interrogation methods had been used’
(TELEGRAPH) Newly released CIA documents revealed that the Speaker of the House of Representatives was aware of the methods’ deployment and not just their existence, as she had earlier claimed.
A leading Republican called her explanation the “lamest of lame excuses”.
The Californian Democrat has been forced into a corner by the controversy sweeping Congress about who knew what and when about the CIA’s interviewing methods, which President Barack Obama has outlawed and condemned as torture.
Many of Mrs Pelosi’s colleagues have called for a congressional inquiry into the issue, which would force the holder of the third most powerful political office in the United States to testify under oath. Others are calling for legal action against lawyers who drafted memos approving the techniques, or the CIA agents who carried out the questioning.
The decision by Mr Obama to release once-classified details about harsh Bush-era interrogation techniques last month, has led to unforeseen consequences and created political difficulties for allies like Mrs Pelosi, whose case rests on the fact that she didn’t know waterboarding had been practised.
In response, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a memo with a summary of the briefings held by the agency with various Congressmen and Senators.
It showed that Mrs Pelosi, who was then the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, received a classified briefing on Sep 4, 2002 that discussed details of the use of “EITs” – enhanced interrogation techniques – on Abu Zubaydah, a prime al-Qaeda suspect.
“Briefing on EITs included use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed,” the report on the briefings said.
The memos published last month clearly stated that Zubaydah, suspected of running al-Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan, was waterboarded 73 times.
Mrs Pelosi has said that she was briefed on the authorised techniques but was not told that waterboarding had already been used on a prisoner. Waterboarding, which simulates drowning, is the most severe of the ten techniques approved by the Bush White House. There is no record that Mrs Pelosi objected to using the techniques.
Yesterday her spokesman said she stood by her recollection of the meeting.
“As this document shows, the speaker was briefed only once,” said Brendan Daly. “The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used.”
Republicans have accused Mrs Pelosi, the first woman Speaker, of knowing about harsh interrogation methods all along and only becoming critical of them when public opinion changed.
Peter Hoekstra, a Republican congressman who has sat on the intelligence committee since September 11 2001, told The Daily Telegraph that “she must have known, she just doesn’t want to be held accountable”.
“In my experience these briefings were extensive. It is very difficult for a reasonable person to believe she didn’t know. Even so, what’s the difference between knowing techniques had been approved and had been used? It makes no sense. It’s the lamest of lame excuses,” he said.
Though he is against an inquiry, he said: “If they want to do that it should begin with Speaker Pelosi.”
“What the president didn’t comprehend is how you can’t just selectively release information that’s damaging to the Bush administration, because then people say what about all this other stuff that’s out there?” he added.