Pelosi May 2002 Statement Casts Further Doubt On Her Claims

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has denied being briefed in September 2002 about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. Pelosi claims she was told that the technique had not been used (when in fact it had been used a month earlier). Pelosi uses this September 2002 briefing, and the alleged concealment of waterboarding, to support her claim that the CIA misled Congress.

Pelosi says she first learned of the waterboarding in February 2003, when her aide was briefed on the issue, and relayed the information to her. CIA Director Leon Panetta states that CIA records show that Pelosi was in fact briefed on the techniques used on Zubaydah at the September 2002 briefing.

We do not know at this time what other records exist showing what was said at the September 2002 briefing, but this quotation from Pelosi in May 2002 lends credibility to the CIA’s account. Pelosi clearly was being kept apprised of the specific details Zubaybah’s interrogation and the difficulty of getting Zubaydah to give up all he knew.

In May 2002, the government announced a terror alert based in part on information Zubaydah had revealed about attacks on the Brooklyn Bridge and other landmarks, although Zubaydah was being evasive as to whether there was an active plan. Pelosi was quoted as being aware of the details of the interrogation (italics in quotation mine):, May 22, 2002: Last Monday night, the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force–a round-the-clock operation at the New York field office of the FBI–got a call from FBI headquarters. Abu Zubaydah, the highest al-Qaeda official to be captured by the U.S., had told interrogators that he had heard other Osama bin Laden loyalists discussing attacks on the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and other U.S. landmarks. But, a federal law-enforcement official told TIME, Abu Zubaydah had said the conversations took place a while back and claimed he knew of no particular plan. Since his capture in March, Abu Zubaydah has shared some valuable information, says a senior U.S. intelligence source. “He’s not us on everything.” Then again, says Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, “he is also very skilled at avoiding interrogation. He is an agent of disinformation.”

So as of May 2002, Pelosi knew the details of the interrogation of Zubaydah, and the problems the CIA was encountering due to Zubaydah’s evasiveness. It does not take any leap of imagination to believe that Pelosi, then the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, would have been kept informed of the progress of the interrogation, including the use of waterboarding months later.

It would take an incredible leap of imagination to believe that the CIA would tell Pelosi about all the problems with the interrogation of Zubaydah, but not tell her what was being done to solve those problems. Particularly when the waterboarding revealed that the plot against the Brooklyn Bridge, about which Pelosi publicly spoke, was revealed to be real based on information Zubaydah provided after being waterboarded.

A leap of imagination is exactly what Pelosi is asking us to do with her ever-changing explanations.

Cross-posted with updates at Legal Insurrection Blog