Pelosi denies knowing waterboarding would be used
Stephen C. Webster and David Edwards
Published: Thursday April 23, 2009

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is on the defensive after her Republican counterpart John Boehner (R-OH) claimed that top Democrats knew well the details of the Bush administration's torture program but did nothing to stop it.

In a Thursday press briefing, Pelosi flatly denied that she was ever told waterboarding would be used.

"My colleague [Porter Goss], the chairman of the committee, has said 'if they say that it's legal you have to know they are going to use them,'" she said. "Well, his experience is that he was a member of the CIA, later went on to head the CIA and maybe his experience is that if they tell you one thing they may mean something else. My experience is that they did not tell us they were using that. Flat out. And any -- any contention to the contrary is simply not true."

"Pelosi said her recollection was, 'They told us they had opinions from the [Justice Department’s] Office of Legal Counsel that they could, but not that they were' using so-called enhanced techniques, 'and that if and when they were used, they would brief Congress at that time,'" reported Congressional Quarterly. "She said she was never told that such techniques were actually being used."

"'As a member of Intelligence, I thought I was being briefed. I realized that was not true when I became ranking member' and got more information, she said," according to CQ Politics.

"She said that members who receive intelligence briefings are tied down by secrecy rules. 'The point is they come in to inform you of what they are doing. ... What recourse do we have? None,' she said, noting that members cannot discuss the contents of confidential briefings with other lawmakers, even the members of the Intelligence committees."

However, at least two senior Republicans and Democrats in Congress -- including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- were briefed on the CIA's program to use waterboarding on terror suspects in September 2002 and did not object, according to a 2007 report.

"In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody," the Washington Post wrote. "For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included [...] Pelosi, was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk."

"Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill," the Post added. "But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said."

"By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter J. Goss of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used," reported the New York Times on Monday.

“We were briefed, and we certainly understood what C.I.A. was doing," Mr. Goss said in an interview. "Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough."

Shortly after the Post report's publication, Pelosi interviewed with Fox News' Chris Wallace.

"Were you ever briefed about this policy or the secret Justice Department memos?" he asked.

"Well, in order to know if I'm briefed about it, I'd have to be briefed about it now," she said. "What exactly is the president talking about? Yes, let me get my credentials right out there. I'm the longest-serving member of Congress on the intelligence committee, both on the committee and ex officio as a leader. So we have been briefed on some tactics used by the administration.

"But I'd have to see what we're talking about here, because this is — all I know is what I've read in the New York Times."

None of the other lawmakers briefed raised formal objections. Those lawmakers included former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), former Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-WV), former Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KN).

"Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, who was committee chairman in 2002, said in an interview that he did not recall ever being briefed on the methods, though government officials with access to records say all four committee leaders received multiple briefings," reported the Times.

"[Rep. Pete] Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has personally requested from Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair an unclassified list of names of all members of Congress who attended those briefings, complete with dates and locations," reported Fox.

"None of the Democrats took any action against the CIA program while they were charged with its oversight while they were responsible for oversight," opined Larry Clifton with Digital Journal. "A growing number of Americans believe that if there is going to be an investigation, it should start with Nancy Pelosi among others, however the Democratic Party is only interested in investigating Republicans."

The first reported torture briefings took place in 2002. Republicans controlled Congress until 2006.

On Thursday, Pelosi said she supports a "truth commission" to investigate the Bush administration's use of torture.

This video is from Fox's Live Desk, broadcast Apr. 23, 2009.

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With reporting by John Byrne.

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