The Washington Post has disclosed sources saying that Democratic leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were told of waterboarding in secret briefings in September 2002. While some have already denied any recollection of the discussion of waterboarding, the Post is reporting that such briefings occurred in 2002 and the only objection heard from members of Congress was whether the torture technique was harsh enough.
If so, it would seem to confirm the worst suspicions of many civil libertarians and Democratic voters. The news would serve to explain why the Democrats have repeatedly act to protect the White House from a showdown on torture. The most obvious and distressing example was when Sens. Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein saved Attorney General Michael Mukasey from having to admit that waterboarding is torture. The Democrats clearly do not want to have such a moment, which would trigger an investigation (and possible impeachment proceeding) where they own knowledge would be revealed.
Voters are likely to look harshly on the fact that their leaders knew of a criminal act and failed to reveal it — while professing disgust at the notion of torture.What is so striking is how easy the White House has set up these experienced members. The White House knew that the domestic surveillance program and torture were crimes. It, therefore, sought to bring in top democrats to invest them personally in keeping the matter secret.
This also explains the failure of the Democrats to block votes that seemed to legitimate waterboarding and unlawful surveillance. If true, the knowledge of Democratic leaders shows a deep disconnect and possible dishonesty between our representatives and the voters. In many ways, this will be the test of our political system. If the public returns to its prior slumber after this story, there is little hope for a system that seems to replicate this type of conduct.
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