Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to evade responsibility for her role in approving the use of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques took another hit today in the Washington Post — and this time the fire comes from her side of the aisle. Pete Hoekstra upped the ante as well, demanding the release of precise minutes of Congressional briefings, and Leon Panetta has promised to make them available, at least to Capitol Hill:
A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended a CIA briefing in early 2003 in which it was made clear that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were being used in the interrogation of an alleged al-Qaeda operative, according to documents the CIA released to Congress on Thursday.
Pelosi has insisted that she was not directly briefed by Bush administration officials that the practice was being actively employed. But Michael Sheehy, a top Pelosi aide, was present for a classified briefing that included Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking minority member of the House intelligence committee, at which agency officials discussed the use of waterboarding on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida.
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.
Pelosi’s attempt to weasel onto Harman’s objection fails when one looks at the briefing notes. Both Pelosi and Sheehy attended a briefing on September 4, 2002, five months before Harman attended her first briefing. That 9/02 briefing specifically covered EITs and their use on Abu Zubaydah. Harman raised her objection in 2003, not in 2002, as she had yet to attend one of the EIT briefings.
Hoekstra demanded the release of more documents, apparently already aware of their contents:
Hoekstra, who requested the history of agency briefings of members of Congress, is also seeking notes made by the CIA during each briefing, documents that he said last week include “a very precise accounting of the substance of each briefing.” He said those memos would detail “not only the specific information provided, but also the degree of bipartisan consensus that existed with respect to the programs in question.”
In a letter to Hoekstra, CIA Director Leon Panetta said the classified memos describing what was said at each briefing would be available at CIA headquarters for review by congressional staff, according to an agency official.
That is no longer sufficient. Since Eric Holder and Barack Obama have opened the possibility of legal action against people in the loop on waterboarding and other techniques, we have seen competing leaks that give small slices of the overall picture. The act of releasing the OLC memos, while not a leak, was another politically selective act intended to give only a small part of the picture for the administration’s purposes. We need to see all of the documentation, with only the most sensitive information redacted, in order to know exactly what was done, who ordered it, who approved it, and who knew about it — and what we discovered as a result of it.
Only by getting all of the information on the table can we have an informed, rational discussion about methods, values, and responsibilities. Obama opened Pandora’s Box, and now we need to let it all escape in order to get the full picture. The drip-drip-drip leaks and releases are akin to a Chinese water torture on rational discussion of this topic, irony definitely intended.
Update (AP): The left’s newest excuse for Pelosi, in case you’re wondering, is that the descriptions of the briefings in the DNI report might not be accurate. Their source? Leon Panetta, the new, er, Democratic head of the CIA:
Ms. Pelosi also noted that Leon E. Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., had warned lawmakers that the descriptions of briefings provided in the new report were based on notes and recollections of C.I.A. officers. “In the end, you and the committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened,” Mr. Panetta wrote to several members of Congress.
They could always ask Porter Goss — after all, he was there — but I digress. This 11th-hour attempt by Panetta to save Pelosi’s ass by discrediting his own officers would have been laughed at by the nutroots had the parties been reversed, but instead I saw bloggers like Greg Sargent pointing to it hopefully yesterday afternoon. Why, oh why, I wonder, would they be so quick to take this seriously when they’re supposedly so keen to know the truth about who knew what? Funny how Democrats get the benefit of the doubt.