A person who calls themself Ishmael Jones and is a 25-year veteran of the CIA’s writes in a blog at National Review Online that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has used the interrogation issue as a political tool for years, but says that the Agency’s Hill briefings are ambiguous and essentially unorganized:
In Mrs. Pelosi’s defense, CIA managers do not give fist-pounding briefings. They mumble, they dissemble, and there’s a lot of “on the one hand . . .” Its enormous numbers of employees have led to briefings being handled by groups, with vague chains of command, so that it may have been difficult to pin down what was said, when it was said, and who was in charge.
In recent years, CIA bureaucracy has appeared to favor the Left, while in the early decades of its existence it was perceived as a group of right-wingers dedicated to toppling communist dictators. In reality the CIA is loyal only to itself. As long as Mrs. Pelosi supported its bureaucratic lifestyle, it supported her, but when she attacked it, it fought back. The CIA may not be able to conduct efficient intelligence operations, but it knows how to survive.
It’s still the humble opinion of this blog that it sounds like Pelosi knew about waterboarding and other “harsh interrogation techniques” at a time when she could have sounded off and perhaps hastened their demise. Any investigation or truth commission into the executive excesses of the Bush Administration on these counts should include looking at the so-called watchdogs in Congress who didn’t have the stones to speak up.
Read the 9/11 Commission report or any of a dozen or more reputable books about the intelligence community before and even after the Twin Towers went down and there is ample evidence that the CIA, FBI and NSA dropped several balls that may have prevented 9/11. Congress’ utility as overseer is only as good as the information it collects. It’s incumbent upon Congress to organize its dealings with the CIA or any other federal agency in ways that get at the truth and do not merely serve as CYA for all involved.
The Internets buzzed a bit about this video which was released during the past week by the Republican National Committee. The video was pulled off of YouTube after the media coverage. Of course, someone copied it and here it is if you missed it.
(Source: Central Intelligence Agency)
There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.
Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.
(Source: CQ Transcriptswire)
(JOINED IN PROGRESS DURING PELOSI OPENING STATEMENT)
PELOSI: … take the time to read this to you. Throughout my career, I have been proud to have worked on human rights and against torture around the world. I say this with great pride because it has been a great focus of my time both even before I came to Congress and here.
(Source: Speaker’s Office)
“Throughout my entire career, I am proud to have worked for human rights, and against the use of torture, around the world.
“As Ranking Member of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in the 1990s, I helped secure the first funding for the Torture Victims Relief Act to assist those suffering from the physical and psychological effects of torture.
“I unequivocally oppose the use of torture by our government because it is contrary to our national values.
Some many years ago I worked on the personal staff of a member of the House Democratic leadership. By personal staff, I mean I worked in a high profile position within his Congressional office. I did not work directly for the Dem leadership.
Still, at times I was involved with the “cool kids.” I can tell you this: If one of Nancy Pelosi’s top aides received a briefing from an Administration run by the other party that contained evidence that the United States was torturing detainees — and she says she never heard anything about it — she’s either lying or that aide’s head was in his ass.
I’m referring to a story in today’s Washington Post outlining the implausible scenario detailed above. The story also points out that Pelosi’s California gal pal and then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee was also at the briefing. Do I believe Harman and Pelosi never talked about waterboarding? Not for a minute.
But here’s what a current Democratic insider said to the Post:
A Democratic source acknowledged yesterday that it is almost certain that Pelosi would have learned about the use of waterboarding from Sheehy. Pelosi herself acknowledged in a December 2007 statement that she was aware that Harman had learned of the waterboarding and had objected in a letter to the CIA’s top counsel.
What’s my point in all of this? If you stand for the rule of law and you believe that the Bush Administration broke the law and harmed America’s standing in the world by carrying out a torture program then you must insist that everyone involved pay a price.
Dick Cheney, David Adington, Jay Bybee and John Yoo are easy pickings for those of us railing against what was done in the name of the War on Terror and the effort to see justice served at the top levels of leadership. It’s not so easy to pick on those indirectly responsible — Congressional leaders who are there to provide a check to executive power run amok. It’s even harder when liberal darling House Speaker Pelosi is at the center of the story. But, if she knew and turned a blind eye, she wasn’t doing her job.
America did the wrong thing by sanctioning and carrying out a torture program. We don’t gain any ground by pretending it didn’t happen. We lose ground if partisan politics means seeing some of those responsible for torture get off scot free.
That includes our darling not-very gentlelady from California.
Go read Glenn Thrush’s post over at Politico on whether or not House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed in on the whole torture thing years ago.
She says she knew nothing, others say there is proof that she did. The bigger picture story here is that any investigations into Bush Era lawbreaking in the realm of national security should ultimately look at what Congress and knew and when they knew it.
We elect 535 members of the House and Senate to provide some oversight and a check on executive power. If the book hasn’t already been written, someone needs to investigate thoroughly whether or not Congress was kept in the dark or bought into the Bush-Cheney culture of ‘anything goes if you can sufficiently scare the bejeezus out of people.’
If Democrats look bad in this, so be it. It doesn’t hurt the party in the long run. It may help to get some of the long-term leeches in our party back out into the real world and get some public servants elected.
Hat Tip to Glenn Thrush at Politico.
Read all about U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-AL, and his kind words about Madame Speaker. Apparently she’s getting to the good soldiers in the Republican Conference.
“Mean as a snake?” Maybe. This one is no Tom DeLay, though. Not a single indictment during her whole career.