Secretly briefed, Pelosi did not object to waterboarding in 2002
Pelosi would later boot sole objector to program from chance to chair Intelligence Committee
John ByrneTwo senior Republicans and Democrats in Congress — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — were briefing on the CIA’s program to use waterboarding on terror suspects in September 2002 and did not object, according to Sunday’s Washington Post.
In the long-ranging article, which seemingly takes the lawmakers and the Bush Administration to task by discussing the practice’s emergence in Nazi Germany and other totalitarian states, a Pelosi aide said the Speaker remembered discussion of “enhanced” interrogation techniques and “acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.”
“In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody,” the Post wrote. “For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.”
“Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill,” the Post added. “But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.”
Democrats have since been vehement critics of the practice, piggybacking on public outrage to a practice many have described as torture — including 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) who was tortured in the Vietnam War.
Only Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) — then the second-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who would supplant Pelosi in 2003 — formally objected. Harman, who was set to lead the House Intelligence Committee when the Democrats retook the chamber in 2006, was pushed aside by Pelosi when she took over as Speaker, in what was seen as an element of personal rivalry.
“Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the committee’s top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program,” the Post notes. “Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA’s program because of strict rules of secrecy.”
“When you serve on intelligence committee you sign a second oath — one of secrecy,” she said. “I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything.”
None of the other lawmakers briefed raised formal objections. Those lawmakers included former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), former Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-WV), former Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KN).
“Individual lawmakers’ recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support,” the Post added. ‘Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,’ said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. ‘And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.'”