Congressional Hypocrisy On “Torture”
UPDATE 05/15/09: I’m taking the rare step of bumping this post back up top, as there has been a lively give and take in the comments and the Nancy Pelosi angle has thrown this story into high relief…
It’s been well-established from newspaper reports, including work by the NY Times (wrong – I misremembered, as the former President would say – it was the Washington Post), that top Congressional figures from both parties were well aware of the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration, including waterboarding, since late 2002, and that, with the exception of Jay Rockefeller, they registered no complaints or protestations whatsoever, no matter their “shocked that gambling is taking place in Casablanca” attitude now.
If for no other reason, this is why you can be certain there will be no Congressional appetite for prosecutions – because once you establish the illegality of the actions, then most of Congress is complicit in a crime – for to be aware of criminal activity and not to report it is itself criminal.
ABC News has the story on a report from the office of the Director of National Intelligence that has been submitted to Congress detailing these briefings:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah in September 2002, according to a report prepared by the Director of National Intelligence’s office and obtained by ABC News.
The report, submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee and other Capitol Hill officials Wednesday, appears to contradict Pelosi’s statement last month that she was never told about the use of waterboarding or other special interrogation tactics. Instead, she has said, she was told only that the Bush administration had legal opinions that would have supported the use of such techniques.
The report details a Sept. 4, 2002 meeting between intelligence officials and Pelosi, then-House intelligence committee chairman Porter Goss, and two aides. At the time, Pelosi was the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.
The meeting is described as a “Briefing on EITs including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of particular EITs that had been employed.”
EITs stand for “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a classification of special interrogation tactics that includes waterboarding.
…The report also details dozens of other meetings with members of Congress — though not with Pelosi present — where the use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques was described.
The Senate intelligence committee’s chairman and ranking member, Bob Graham and Richard Shelby, were given a briefing similar to the one with Pelosi and Goss on Sept. 27, 2002, according to the report.
On Feb. 4, 2003, a briefing on “enhanced interrogation techniques” for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., revealed that interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri were taped.
In addition, that briefing “described in considerable details” the techniques used, including “how the water board was used.”
A similar briefing the following day included Goss and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who by that time had become the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, when Pelosi moved on to become minority leader.
The report is accompanied by a letter from CIA Director Leon Panetta to intelligence committee leaders that describes the way it was compiled: “This letter presents the most thorough information we have on dates, locations, and names of all Members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques. This information, however, is drawn from the past files of the CIA and represents [memorandums for the record] completed at the time and notes that summarized the best recollections of those individuals. In the end, you and the Committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened. We can make the MFRs available at CIA for staff review.”
Despite Panetta’s open invitation to reinvent history, the fact that the report was compiled from contemparaneous notes is, in fact, powerful evidence of its accuracy – for at the time, no one had reason to engage in any sort of cover-up. In a court of law, these memos would represent near-total proof of the complicity of Congress in these actions.
Expect a lot of posturing in the short term, enough to at least plausibly claim that the issue was thoroughly looked into, then a quiet retreat…