Pelosi accuses CIA of misleading her on use of waterboarding

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused CIA officials Thursday of misleading her in 2002 about the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding, which simulates drowning and has been described by critics as torture.

Pelosi reiterated an earlier claim that she was briefed 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 says that 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. Pelosi said that one month later, she was told only that the Justice Department had concluded that such techniques were legal, not that they were being used. “That’s the only mention, that they were not using it. And we now know that earlier, they were,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. Watch Pelosi explain what she was told » Pelosi said the briefing she received from the CIA was incomplete and inaccurate, and she called on the CIA to release a full transcript of the briefing. She said that in February 2003, a member of her staff told her that the Republican chairman and the new Democratic ranking member of the Intelligence Committee had been briefed on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

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Dispute about what Pelosi knew and when

Pelosi said that after that briefing, the Democratic ranking member of the committee responded by sending a letter of protest, but “no letter could change [the Bush administration’s] policy.” Last month, however, Pelosi told reporters that she was not told waterboarding or any other enhanced interrogation methods were being used. That was before reports came out claiming she was told by her aide about waterboarding in February. Asked why she didn’t mention that before, Pelosi said, “I told you what our briefing was.” “When my assistant told me that the committee had been briefed — now, I’m not on that committee any more. I’m now out of it. We have a new — that ranking member wrote the appropriate letter to protest that,” she said. “But the committees can look into and see the timing of who knew what and when and what the nature of the briefing was. I have not been briefed as to what they were briefed on in February. I was just briefed that they were informed that some of the enhanced situations were used,” she said. Shortly after Pelosi’s remarks, House Minority Leader John Boehner said her comments “continue to raise more questions than provide answers.” “I’ve dealt with our intelligence professionals for the last 3½ years on an almost daily basis. And it’s hard for me to imagine that anyone in our intelligence area would ever mislead a member of Congress,” he said. Asked about Pelosi’s allegations that Republican policy was leading the country astray, Boehner said, “I think the problem is that the speaker has had way too many stories on this issue.” “When you look at the number of briefings that the speaker was in and other Democrat members of the House and Senate, it’s — it’s pretty clear that they were well aware of what these enhanced interrogation techniques were, they were well aware that they had been used, and — and it seems to me that they want to have it both ways. You can’t have it both ways,” he said. Pelosi said Thursday that Republicans are jumping on the briefings because they want to cause a distraction. She reiterated her call for the establishment of an independent “truth commission” to investigate the Bush administration’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques. She also suggested that the National Security Act of 1947 needs to be revised so that more members of Congress can be briefed on sensitive intelligence matters. In 2007, Congress passed legislation banning torture and requiring interrogators to abide by the regulations of the Army Field Manual. Former President Bush vetoed the measure, but President Obama enacted similar restrictions shortly after taking office.

“Throughout my career, I am proud to have worked on human rights and against torture,” Pelosi said. “I unequivocally oppose the use of torture.”