Top Republicans are demanding an apology from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or proof to back her claim that the CIA misled Congress about the use of harsh interrogation tactics.
Pelosi last week said that she was briefed by the CIA on such techniques only once — in September 2002 — and that she was told at the time that techniques like waterboarding were not being used. Pelosi, D-California, said she learned from an aide that waterboarding had been used after other lawmakers were briefed in 2003. A recently released Justice Department memo 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. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Monday that if Pelosi’s accusations are not true, she may need to step down. “She made some outrageous accusations last week where she said that the CIA lied to her and lied systematically over a period of years. That is a very, very serious charge,” Hoekstra said Monday on CNN’s “American Morning.”
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“Either the CIA needs to be held accountable for their performance during this time or the speaker needs to be held accountable and be responsible for the actions and the statements that she made last week. One or the other is correct, one or the other is wrong,” he said. Watch Hoekstra’s criticism of Pelosi » Hoekstra wants the notes from the CIA briefing in question to be declassified, as does Pelosi. The House speaker says the notes will show she wasn’t told that techniques such as waterboarding were being used. Related: GOP wants Pelosi held accountable While Pelosi declined offers to appear on the Sunday talk shows, her critics fired away. House Minority Leader John Boehner demanded that Pelosi provide evidence to support her accusations. “Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And 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 can be prosecuted. And if that’s not the case, I think she ought to apologize to our intelligence professionals around the world.” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Pelosi “has stepped in it big time.” Steele said he wants to know if President Obama backs Pelosi’s account or that of the CIA director. The White House has not commented on the controversy. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, used a different outlet to voice his criticism, posting a seven-stanza poem about the House speaker on his Web site. “She sat in briefings and knew about enhanced interrogation; But claims she wasn’t there, and can’t give an explanation. She disparages the CIA and says they are a bunch of liars; Even the press aren’t buying it and they’re stoking their fires.” “I believe in the integrity of the men and women who sacrifice to keep us safe; Not the woman who has been caught flat-footed, lying to our face. I say it here and I say it rather clear — It’s time for Nancy Pelosi to resign and get out of here,” he wrote. As Republicans continue to hammer away, Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins said Monday that Pelosi has no one to blame but herself. “This is a self-inflicted wound. … She brought the whole subject up,” he said. “She started this. I think it was the worst week she’s had. I’m not accusing her of lying or any of the rest of that, but I think she certainly doesn’t have her facts correct.” But Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville said he doesn’t see what the big deal is. “I think that she and [CIA Director Leon] Panetta ought to sit down, come out. I don’t think the Democrats want to be like the Bush administration and be at war with the CIA. And it might be that they have different recollections here. And if there are different recollections, we’re not going to resolve what was said in a meeting seven years ago,” he said on CNN Sunday. “It could be that people remember something differently. I have no idea. But it looks like something we can get to the bottom of without a lot of trouble.” Following Pelosi’s remarks, Panetta on Friday stood up for the agency and challenged Pelosi’s assertions. “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 employees. “Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values,” he said. Panetta said the agency’s records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers “briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'”
Pelosi issued a response to Panetta and 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.