A key Republican leader demanded Sunday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi produce evidence to back up her assertion that she was misled by the CIA on the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Last week, Pelosi reiterated an earlier claim that she was briefed by the CIA on such techniques only once — in September 2002 — and that she was told at the time that the techniques were not being used. A recently released Justice Department memo, however, says the CIA used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al Qaeda leader imprisoned at U.S. facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Waterboarding, which simulates drowning, has been described by critics as torture. “Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If the speaker is accusing the CIA and other intelligence officials of lying or misleading the Congress, then she should come forward with evidence and turn that over to the Justice Department so they be prosecuted. And if that’s not the case, I think she ought to apologize to our intelligence professionals around the world.”
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Boehner said he has received intelligence briefings from the CIA for three and a half years and has “never felt” misled. He also claimed that Pelosi “has, at times, objected to activities that were approved by the president. Those activities were changed as a result of her objection.” On Thursday, Pelosi said the briefing she received from the CIA was incomplete and inaccurate, and she called on the agency to release a full transcript of the briefing. She also accused Republicans of jumping on reports of the briefings to cause a distraction. The speaker’s comments prompted CIA Director Leon Panetta to stand up for the agency on Friday and challenge Pelosi on her assertion that the CIA had misled her. “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.” Panetta said in a letter to agency employees. “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.” Pelosi later Friday issued a response to Panetta in which she shifted her criticism from the CIA to the Bush administration. “My criticism of the manner in which the Bush administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe,” she wrote. “What is important now is to be united in our commitment to ensuring the security of our country; that, and how Congress exercises its oversight responsibilities, will continue to be my focus as we move forward.” Pelosi wants the classified notes of her 2002 briefing on waterboarding declassified because, she has said, they will show that she wasn’t told that harsh techniques such as waterboarding were being used. The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said he has read the notes from Pelosi’s disputed 2002 briefing and insists to CNN that she’s wrong. “The record shows Speaker Pelosi was briefed that the techniques were used on Abu Zubaydah,” Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, said in a written statement. That appears to back up CIA records declassified last week, which say that on September 4, 2002, Pelosi and Republican Rep. Porter Goss of Florida were briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques. In the Senate, Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama and Democrat Bob Graham of Florida were briefed together in September 2002 but have very different accounts of the briefing. Through a spokesman, Shelby said CIA officials gave them a full account of harsh techniques. “To his recollection, not only did the CIA briefers provide what was purported to be a full account of the techniques, they also described the need for these techniques and the value of the information being obtained from terrorists during questioning,” Jonathan Graffeo said in a written statement. “The Senate briefing also included an explanation of how these techniques were consistent with the law and with the national security interests of the U.S. … While there was a great deal of discussion, there were no objections raised during the Senate briefing.” Graffeo added, “To Senator Shelby’s recollection of the Senate briefing, waterboarding was one of the (enhanced interrogation techniques) the CIA said it had used.” But Graham insists they were told nothing about waterboarding or other harsh tactics. “The briefing was done at a relatively low level of classification and did not get into these more sensitive areas of torture or the application of techniques to specific detainees,” Graham said. “… The briefing, according to the statement in my notebook, was on detainee interrogation, but it did not include waterboarding or any particular person to whom that had been applied.”