It Depends What “Know” Means: Pelosi Admits That She Was Briefed on Torture But Claims Ignorance on its Actual Use

220px-nancy_pelosiHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to fend off criticism over her knowledge of the Bush Administration’s plan to torture detainees. Pelosi has adopted a highly lawyered exclamation that she was briefed on the plan but never told that they were implementing the plan. It is a distinction lost on civil libertarians. She was still briefed on a war crime and did not act to stop it.

So, here is the analogy. Someone briefs you on their conclusion that they are allowed to burn down buildings, but you are not responsible unless you personally see the smoke or you are told about the arsons. I was not aware that asserting the right to commit war crimes was not a concern for congressional oversight. So, the Bush Administration went to all the trouble of securing formal opinions to allow it to torture people and to brief high ranking democrats, but Pelosi did not consider it a matter of sufficient concern to call for action from the Committees. This occurred at the same time that Bush and others were calling for rough treatment of detainees and publicly questioning the application of things like the Geneva Conventions.

Notably, lawyers are required to act when a client tells them that they are considering an action that could result in physical injury or death in other individuals. Yet, when Pelosi is told about the Administration belief that it can commit war crimes, she feels no compulsion to act until after the war crimes are committed.

Pelosi stated “In that or any other briefing…we were not, and I repeat, we’re not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used. What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel … opinions that they could be used.” Hmmm, so the Bush Administration went out of its way to brief you on their belief that they could torture people, but that was not cause for action by the Democratic leadership — which was campaigning on their superior commitment to civil liberties. Indeed, as many of us were criticizing the known torture program, Democratic leaders like Pelosi did virtually nothing to investigate the allegations or denounce the practice. Pelosi herself blocked any effort to investigate George Bush for war crimes or to allow even an investigation into a possible impeachment for such crimes. She insisted to the very end of the Bush Administration that she had not heard of a single possible crime committed by George Bush that could be used to impeach him. She then said that she could not allow impeach if Bush would not go along with it, here.

For the full story, click here.

20 thoughts on “It Depends What “Know” Means: Pelosi Admits That She Was Briefed on Torture But Claims Ignorance on its Actual Use”

  1. “What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.”

    –Hannah Arendt


    (If you didn’t get the joke, see “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”.)

  3. BVM,
    Please let me know when the Revolution is starting, I need to take a nap now.

  4. I have long been unhappy with Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid. I believe their leadership abilities are abysmal. I also find her comments on the briefings to be completely disingenuous.

  5. My impression of Nancy Pelosi has long been that she desperately wanted to be ‘one of the Boys’…
    …. and the Boys knew it!

    Somebody taught her The Club Rules and she bought it
    – hook, line, and sinker, IMO.

  6. If we can arrest all the U.S. War Criminals who initiated, funded, conspired and waged Wars of Aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan we will have a grand start in cleaning out Washington D.C. the evil city of the world.

    We have them surrounded! They can be arrested today!

  7. When will they arrest Nazi Pelosi? She and most all of Congress have committed many war crimes and be sure to include Bush, Cheney, Rice, Ashcroft, Obama, Biden, H. Clinton and many, many others. Ship them to Spain and to the Hague.

  8. I just read the actual article and this woman states this and she has a position of influence and or power. She may be a bitch but she ain’t my bitch. I have never read of one whom is more self serving that this witch. If this is her claim why is she allowed to be seated to represent her constituents in this manner.

    We are not speaking of some sex scandal or Pole smoking Congresswoman. We are talking about someone entrusted to represent America. Not I did not know, They told me it was a Cigar, no I was not wearing a Blew Dress. That is really icing from that eclair I ate earlier.

    Do the right thing and RESIGN. Use the money that you have gained and leave this country Pelosi. The people you gained the information from are on the other side of the isle. (The classification of this started by the GOP).

    Would you trust Jeffrey Dalhmer to babysit your children, grandchildren? Would you invite John Wayne Gacy to a Birthday party for your children? What she is now claiming is even more lackluster than the Nuremberg defense. At least they TOOK RESPONSIBILITY. Why can’t you?

    “It Depends What “Know” Means: Pelosi Admits That She Was Briefed on Torture But Claims Ignorance on its Actual Use”

    Can’t you read the foreign newspaper? Oh yeah, the CIA owns a lot of them too sorry. How about the Australian papers. They are the only ones that carried the full story, that I could find when a District Attorney in south Texas Indicted Gonzales, Cheney and Company.

    No Newspaper in Texas carried it other than a few small lines, if at all.

  9. I have to disagree with the premise of the article.

    The republican controlled congress was a brutal institution that rammed thru what it wanted and shut down the opposition in the House.

    In the Senate remember the “nukular option” where they were even going to get rid of the filibuster?

    There was nothing anyone in the House could do but vote them out.

    Dennis Hastert was the Speaker of the House at that time.

    Former Dem,

    You are still dim.


    Like you ever where one. Come on shit on your own space. Tell us your name and we will verify if you were one or not. I did not know that your one little decision allowed you such power to vote in numerous places. You must be of an LBJ reincarnation. Or maybe you vote Chicago Style I am not sure.

    But please shit on your own space.

    The Congress woman was nothing more that a Political Prostitute a whore if you insist. The Cheney administration used her and many others. Why? You don’t gain many points by beating up on women. It did not even work for Tonya against Nancy Kerrigan. I guess she just thought she could skate by.

  11. Below is the text of a letter of April 16, 2008 from Dennis Blair (Obama’s Spy-In-Chief) to members of the “intelligence community.”:

    Dear Colleagues:

    Today is a difficult one for those of us who serve the country in its intelligence services. An article in the front page of the New York Times claims that the National Security Agency has been collecting information that violates the privacy and civil liberties of American citizens. The release of documents from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) spells out in detail harsh interrogation techniques used by CIA officers on suspected al Qaida terrorists.

    It is important to remember the context of these past events. All of us remember the horror of 9/11. For months afterwards we did not have a clear understanding of the enemy we were dealing with, and our every effort was focused on preventing further attacks that would kill more Americans. It was during these months that the CIA was struggling to obtain critical information from captured al al Qa’ida leaders and requested permission to use harsher interrogation methods. The OLC memos make clear that senior legal officials judged the harsher methods to be legal and that senior policymakers authorized their use. High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country. As the OLC memos demonstrate, from 2002 through 2006 when the use of these techniques ended, the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities both to Executive Branch policymakers and to members of Congress, and received permission to continue to use the techniques.

    Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. As the President has made clear, and as both CIA Director Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the future. I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at the time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.

    Even in 2009 there are organizations plotting to kill Americans using terror tactics, and although the memories of 9/11 are becoming more distant, we in the intelligence services must stop them. One of our most effective tools in discovering groups planning to attack us are their communications, and it is the job of the NSA to intercept them. The NSA does vital work under legislation that was passed by Congress. The NSA actions are subject to oversight by my office and by the Justice Department under court-approved safeguards; when the intercepts are conducted against Americans, it is with individual court orders. Under these authorities the officers of the National Security Agency collect large amounts of international telecommunications, and under strict rules review and analyze some of them. These intercepts have played a vital role in many successes we have had in thwarting terrorist attacks since 9/11.

    On occasion, NSA has made mistakes and intercepted the wrong communications. The numbers of these mistakes are very small in terms of our overall collection efforts, but each one is investigated, Congress and the courts are notified, corrective measures are taken, and improvements are put in place to prevent reoccurrences.

    As a young Navy officer during the Vietnam years, I experienced public scorn for those of us who served in the Armed Forces during an unpopular war. Challenging and debating the wisdom and policies linked to wars and warfighting is important and legitimate; however, disrespect for those who serve honorably within legal guidelines is not. I remember well the pain of those of us who served our country even when the policies we were carrying out were unpopular or could be second-guessed.

    We in the Intelligence Community should not be subjected to similar pain. Let the debate focus on the law and our national security. Let us be thankful that we have public servants who seek to do the difficult work of protecting our country under the explicit assurance that their actions are both necessary and legal.

    There will almost certainly be more media articles about the actions of intelligence agencies in the past, and as we do our vital work of protecting the country, we will make mistakes that will also be reported. What we must do is make it absolutely clear to the American people that our ethos is to act legally, in as transparent a manner as we can, and in a way that they would be proud of if we could tell them the full story.

    It is my job, and the job of our national leaders, to ensure that the work done by the Intelligence Community is appreciated and supported. You can be assured the President knows this and is supporting us. It is your responsibility to continue the difficult, often dangerous and vital work you are doing every day.


    Dennis Blair

  12. Pelosi is another reason why I will no longer vote for any Democrat on the ticket.

  13. Goss: Obama Decision “Crossed a Red Line”

    Porter Goss, former CIA Director and past chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, blasted the Obama administration for releasing Justice Department memos on harsh interrogation techniques. “For the first time in my experience we’ve crossed the red line of properly protecting our national security in order to gain partisan political advantage,” Goss said in an interview.

    Goss, a former CIA operative, has made few public comments since leaving his post as DCI in September 2006. In December 2007, he told a Washington Post reporter that members of Congress had been fully briefed on the CIA’s special interrogation program. “Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” Goss told the Post. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”

    In a letter to his intelligence community colleagues last Thursday, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair described those briefings. “From 2002 through 2006 when the use of these techniques ended, the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities both to Executive Branch policymakers and to members of Congress, and received permission to continue to use the techniques.”

    That passage from Blair’s letter – along with another confirming that the interrogations produced “high-value information” that provided a “deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization attacking this country” – was dropped when language from the letter was released publicly. A spokesman for Blair attributed to the omission to normal editing procedures.

    In an interview this morning, senior Bush administration official accused the DNI of “politicizing intelligence” by attempting to hide his judgment that the program had produced valuable results. This official also accused the Obama administration of double standards, citing its professed belief in transparency and its unwillingness – at least so far – to declassify memos that demonstrate the value of the interrogation techniques Obama has banned.

    Other Republicans have pointed out that with the exception of Blair, the Obama administration has defending the policies using political figures – like Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod – rather than top national security advisers.

    “You can imagine what it would have looked like, if on a sensitive intelligence matter involving the CIA and this controversy, if we sent Karl Rove out to do this briefing. And that’s in effect what’s happened here,” says a high-ranking official from the Bush White House. “And I assume that’s because they saw it primarily as a political issue – because it’s being debated inside as a political issue –because it’s about appeasing the left, whose support they sought during the campaign. And Axelrod is more of an expert on that crowd that anybody else. It also says to me he was in all the meetings where they were debating this question – whether or not Obama had better go forward with some kind of investigation.”

    The official was referring to an article by Politico’s Mike Allen, in which Axelrod characterized Obama’s move as “a weighty decision.” Axelrod added: “He thought very long and hard about it, consulted widely. … He’s been thinking about this for four weeks, really.”

    Allen later reported that Axelrod made the comments during an interview he and others at Politico conducted for another article. Axelrod, Allen wrote, gave he and his colleagues a “preview of the decision on the memos.”

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