Pelosi Changes Account On Briefing On Torture

220px-nancy_pelositorture -abu ghraibSpeaker Nancy Pelosi has issued a new statement (and explanation) after released documents appeared to contradict her earlier denials that she had ever been briefed on the use of torture. As discussed in a prior blog, Pelosi previously insisted that she was never told that these “enhanced techniques” (aka torture) were being used and assumed that the briefing concerned just a hypothetical use of the methods. Now, she is changing her story to acknowledge that she, at a minimum, knew that the methods would be used — even though she is denying that she was actually told that they had been used. I discussed the story on this segment of Rachel Maddow’s show.

Here is the new spin:

“As I said in my statement of December 9, 2007: ‘I was briefed on interrogation techniques the (Bush) administration was considering using in the future. The administration advised that legal counsel for both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.'”

The latest effort to explain her collusion in the torture program falls a bit short. First, the CIA memo dated to Sept. 4, 2002 says Pelosi received a “briefing on EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques), including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities and a description of particular EITs that had been employed.”

Second, it hardly amounts to a morally superior position to say that I was told that they were going to torture people, not that they had already tortured people. Describing war crimes in the future tense has never been a viable defense. It is like saying that the White House was describing a murder in the future tense, so I really did not see why I had to act to stop it.

Third, this is not what she previously told the public. Here is what she told Rachel Maddow:

(on camera): September 2002, you were briefed on CIA detention issues and enhanced interrogation issues. Because of those briefings, and I know you that you expressed concerns to the NSA after that October 2001 briefing, you released that publicly in 2006. You didn`t express public concerns at the time after those briefings. Does that raise a complication?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: No, no. The fact is they did not brief – first of all, we`re not allowed to talk about what happens, but I can say this. They did not brief us that these enhanced interrogations were taking place. They did not brief us that was – they were talking about an array of interrogations that they might have at their disposal.

MADDOW: Techniques in the abstract, as if they were not being used?

PELOSI: We were never told they were being used.

MADDOW: Were you told they weren`t being used?

PELOSI: Well, they just talked about them, but they – the inference to be drawn from what they told us was these are things that we think could be legal and we have a difference of opinion on that.

But they never told us that they were being used because that would be a different story altogether. And we had many disagreements with them all along the way on how they collect information in their country and what they think might be acceptable.

They have never gotten any comfort from me on any of these issues, no matter what they want to say publicly. And they know that I cannot speak specifically to the classified briefing of that kind. But I can say flat out they never told us that these enhanced interrogations were being used.

“They did not brief us that these enhanced interrogations were taking place. They did not brief us that was – they were talking about an array of interrogations that they might have at their disposal.” Now, Pelosi is admitting that, at a minimum, she knew that these techniques were going to be used. She knew about the torture program and did not act to stop it.

Finally, this argument completely abandons any semblance of oversight responsibility. It amounts to arguing “if you can’t believe the Bush White House on international law, who can you believe?” What is particularly striking is that Pelosi is using precisely the same argument that she rejected from Jane Harman on the unlawful surveillance program. Harman insisted that, while she was the critical oversight authority in Congress, she had no knowledge of the law in the area and specifically FISA. She just had to accept the Bush Administration’s insistence that it was legal and did not even have the ability to ask for general information on the law in the area. Now, Pelosi is saying that she just had to accept that a torture program was lawful because the White House said it was. The primary oversight responsibility of these members is to be sure that the Executive Branch is complying with the laws written by Congress. It makes a mockery of the system for Pelosi and Harman to simply take their word for it. The federal law gives Pelosi and Harman the obligation to serve as a check on executive authority, but they believe that this role compels them to accept whatever they are told on the legality of the program. They are simply informed and have not obligations or responsibilities — even when they are given a description of torture.

Pelosi’s claim that she could not take any further steps because of the classified nature of the briefing is equally bizarre. Since when can the White House classified a crime — and a war crime to boot? At a minimum, Pelosi could have demanded classified hearings and move to legislatively block the program — while demanding prosecution. She could have demanded a full legal briefing (classified if needed) from democratic staffers on the Intelligence Committee on torture. She could have publicly stated that she believed that the White House was engaged in violations of international law and demand the release of information.

There were an estimated 65 members briefed on 40 different occasions. There were many things that she could have done in the face of a war crime. Instead, she and dozens of legislators were ultimately briefed on a program and remains silent — as they campaigned on their commitment to human rights and civil liberties.

The Bush Administration knew these members all too well. They fully briefed them on torture on the anniversary of 9-11, knowing that they would not dare to try to stop the program. Then, they held these briefing over their heads over years as the Democrats quietly blocked investigations and protected people like former Attorney General Michael Mukasey from having to answer questions on torture.

Democrats cannot demand justice for Bush officials without holding these democratic members also accountable. This is becoming a party of chumps, who will accept any spin to excuse the conduct of their own leaders while denouncing the conduct of GOP leaders. These very same Democratic members, particularly Pelosi, blocked past efforts to investigate the torture allegations and blocked any effort to look into impeachment due to the commission of war crimes. It is now clear (as some of us have been saying for years) that these investigations would have revealed the involvement of Democratic members.

On the face of this latest explanation, Democratic voters should be outraged on the lack of personal responsibility claimed by leaders like Pelosi. They are basically claimed that oversight means little more than being briefed with no affirmative duty to challenge such claims as torture being perfectly legal. Any research into waterboarding would have shown that it has long been defined as torture and a crime by the United States. Yet, these members did not want to be in a position of having to question a popular president, particularly on the anniversary of 9-11. They preferred to remain in willful blindness and public popularity. Now that the public is outraged by the torture, there is an effort to re-write the history and excuse the lack of action.

For Pelosi’s statement, click here.

61 thoughts on “Pelosi Changes Account On Briefing On Torture”

  1. Patty C:

    I thought pardons carried a blanket imunity throughout the court system; I’m glad to hear they’re not. Thanks.

  2. “One limitation is that a pardon cannot be issued for a crime that has not yet been committed. Pardons also don’t affect civil cases, or state or local cases. Pardons are meant to dismiss sentences stemming from affronts to the United States through the breaking of laws.”

    You missed my point, again and you are mistaken, again.

    A presidential pardon granted will not apply toward any other federal offenses charged in the future, even if arising out of the original offense for which the pardon was granted.

    Actually, I was NOT attempting to make your point, but since you brought it up, the power to issue an amnesty and the effect of an amnesty are the same as those for a pardon.

    There are a few different powers to pardon AND a few different kinds of pardons.

  3. 51 lottakatz
    1, May 9, 2009 at 9:52 pm
    🙂 Maybe I spoke (above) too soon. Stealth-trolling Liz? 🙂

    Elizabeth Ferrari: ” Wow. You people really do get trolls here… spoof ”

    I wasn’t sure so I added smileys so as not to offend you if you (Elizabeth Ferrari) weren’t pulling a switch-up. I apologize for casting aspersions.

  4. Nancy Pelosi has been a War Criminal for years in funding, conspiring and waging Wars of Aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. She could be arrested today under USC TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441 – War Crimes and other laws.

  5. Elizabeth Ferrari,
    We do get a number of trolls here, but they usually are the hit and run types, who don’t even follow the thread. This “Elizabeth” was a higher order troll in that he/she had been following the thread and decided to add a little mischief to the misinformation. Jonathan, basically runs this himself and so cannot be expected to be constantly perusing everything. Also my he gives wide latitude to free speech and expects the rest of us to step in and do our parts.

    Regarding your comments and the initial reaction of some that they were trollish, I think that can be ascribed to the fact that political discourse in this country has been cheapened to the point where it has become a battle of memes and mythology. Due to that words take on far more meaning than their original definition. I decry that fact, try to go beyond it, but 40 years of propaganda by paid for by the moneyed elite have wrought their mischief.

    Therefore your “politicizing” can be taken in the context of the shrill Republican screaming that every issue brought by Democrats was partisan, of course while they in fact were operating from a solely partisan viewpoint. I surmise that some read your post too quickly and were overtaken by this context, even though that was clearly not your intent.

    In a sense the recent spate of Trolling here can be viewed as a good sign for this site, since it means that JT has had some telling effect in highlighting this issue and that brings on the Trolls, both the misinformed and the paid.

  6. Elizabeth Ferrari,

    We, I think I can speak for a number of folks on here, get a “fair” number of trolls here. It is a chance to affirm our belief in my convictions. I welcome you here. Please share what it is you have to offer, on topic off topic whatever ails you.

    There are a number of folks that words are much more eloquent than mine. But a sincere welcome to this site, not to be confused with a cite.

  7. lottakatz: Wow. You people really do get trolls here.

    But the admin should be able to verify the different ISPs. Is this what they do, spoof other posters? What a waste of time. Breitbart? Good grief.

  8. elizabeth 1, May 9, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Russia warns World in Soviet-style show of might

    May 9 08:20 AM US/Eastern

    Russia on Saturday sternly warned the world as it put on a Soviet-style show of military might in Red Square including nuclear capable missiles.

    Please Misses Troll or Mistress Troll,

    I am on a Roll. Please look at December 2006.

    Tuesday, December 26, 2006. some news about georgia/south-caucasus. Turkey, Georgia to Share Giant Caspian Field Gas 5

    What ya think that is all about?

    Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context
    and Implications for U.S. Interests

    Updated September 2008.

    Do you think that having Oil there shows what interest Cheney had in Georgia?

    Oh, by the way Troll, Obama did not get elected until November 2008 and sworn in January 2009. Did you know that.

  9. elizabeth

    Obama Bans the Commonfolk from Normandyby John Romano

    A lot of the difference, the change if you will, between Obama and Bush has much to do with the word humility.

    did you ever see W when he was at his impromptu Press Conferences and he was fumbling worse than a Detroit Lion. He either was still cranked up from the night before or his other meds were working overtime.

    But I understand a Troll has its marching Orders and must do what a Troll must do. If any original thought is required you’d probably not be more humble than Georges fumbles.

  10. Patty C.

    You are smart enough to know that if it involves a Federal Pardon it is only for Federal Issues. Surly the absurdity is not lost on its author.

    I recalled all I remembered from my lil ole brain cell. Because of your insistence to correct and criticize rather than educate and inform, I feel compelled to respond in kind.

    “One limitation is that a pardon cannot be issued for a crime that has not yet been committed. Pardons also don’t affect civil cases, or state or local cases. Pardons are meant to dismiss sentences stemming from affronts to the United States through the breaking of laws.”

    I have attached the link:

    If I had gone to med school, I assure you, my bed side manners would never be called into question, nor my ethics. Can you say the same?

  11. ‘But it is an absolute defense to any Criminal Prosecution

    No, only as to the designated offense being pardoned. It would not apply, for instance, to other possible charges brought later on.

    And it could not apply to any cases in individual States. Only sitting governors may exercise their own State pardon powers.

    I recommend EF use JT’s ‘Search’feature to locate any article under the keyword ‘Pelosi’ he’s written, even before he created the #1 Law Professor AND Legsl Theory Blawg’.

  12. Obama Bans the Commonfolk from Normandyby John Romano

    A lot of the difference, the change if you will, between Obama and Bush has much to do with the word humility.

    George Bush is and was a humble man. Obama thinks the world counts on him and him alone to lead us. Bush went to church and prayed often. Obama puts out press releases about his supposed piety. The left sold a great bill of goods to the American people claiming that Bush, et al. were arrogant while insisting that Obama was a “man of the people.”

    The 65th Anniversary of D-Day is fast approaching. Barack Obama will attend the events on June 6th as George Bush did in 2004 for the sixtieth memorial service. Here is the rub, as of now Obama’s State Department has asked (read demanded) the French government not allow tour guide services to operate that day. It is a big day for Normandy tourism. Yet, the king will not allow those not connected with government to enjoy the day. Obama is very important you know. This is an unprecedented request. I hope the French come to their senses and deny it.

    Compare that with 2004. Security was tight as President Bush and other world leaders were in attendance, but the event was still open to all. A friend relayed the story of waiting in line to use a port-a-potty (a French port-a-potty no doubt, yuck, believe me.) She looks to her left and who he is in the next line waiting patiently? President Bush. Sure he had Secret Service nearby, but he waited like everyone else.

    Contrast that with Team Obama not even allowing regular people near Colleville-Sur-Mer that day. A shame indeed. Especially as the last of our WW II vets are expiring.

    As the Bamsters unemployment rate pushes 10% (double the Bush average) and his 3.5 trillion dollar budget breaks the USA (the press of course focuses on his 17 billion in “savings.” Way to go 4th Estate.), Obama has more to worry about then denying people the right to attend a memorial service on June 6th.

    It’s as if Obama has to let it be known that he is more important than honoring the events and the 9,387 mostly young Americans who died invading Normandy 65 years ago. Will Obama apologize for American actions during WW II at the event?

    I think the following quote from Obama himself sums it all up: “a light will shine down from somewhere…. You will experience an epiphany. And you will say to yourself, ‘I have to vote for Barack.’” Watch for yourself:

    The guy can’t even bring himself to say “shine down from heaven.” Do you really expect him to line up to use the can with the commoners at a Normandy celebration? Americans may start to miss the guy with the humility.

    Universal Healthcare, unchecked unions, government run banks, government run autos, cap and trade, turning the 20 million undocumented Democrats into voters: That isn’t America and it surely isn’t what those young boys died at Normandy for.

    We elected a fairy tale. We can start the road back to reality in 2010 with the mid-term elections.

  13. Russia warns World in Soviet-style show of might

    May 9 08:20 AM US/Eastern

    Russia on Saturday sternly warned the world as it put on a Soviet-style show of military might in Red Square including nuclear capable missiles.

    The display to mark the 64th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II came amid renewed tensions with the United States & Georgia after NATO’s decision to hold war games in the Caucasus country infuriated Moscow.

    “We are sure that any aggression against our citizens will be given a worthy reply,” President Dmitry Medvedev said in a speech in Red Square side-by-side with powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.


  14. Pelosi is such a scoundrel just like all the democrats in Congress. Filthy liars, all of them.

  15. Elizabeth Ferrari welcome aboard.

    Your op-ed to Pelosi was well done. I’m glad you clarified your comment with “Jonathan’s entire post could be subtitled, “And you Democrats, too”. This forum/blog is one of the few I have visited that is (troll and spam aside) evenhanded in its condemnation of wrongdoing.

    As for me, I no longer even care for the (rational and prudent) arguments to drag it out to the point that a consensus against torture is present among the electorate before an investigation is started. I know that’s probably not wise after seeing the ease with which someone like the traitor North can get off by using a few tears in a court of law but it’s where time and a good measure of free-floating disgust with both sides of the aisle in Washington has brought me.

    I am perfectly happy to see Washington, metaphorically, burned to the ground by a thorough investigation of everyone involved. I want the debate on the nature of our soul (as a nation) currently and for the future to be loud, contentious, (ugly as hell if needs be) and defining.

    This slow drift away from substantial political debate and into ‘spin’ and ‘parsing’ on every issue is just withering my soul. I don’t even care what the actual answer is anymore, I just want to know what kind of country I live in and will spend the rest of my life in.

    Uh, yes, Senator Sam ‘Because English is my first language’ Ervin is one of my hero’s. What I wouldn’t give for just one day of real debate at the highest level of government.

    Please visit again, you will be welcome here I’m sure.

  16. Mike Spindell: Thank you. I am guilty of being very direct at times and it’s easy to see how that would be suspect or something as a first post.

    But, I have been following this story since 2002 and that is my first interest. Thanks.

  17. Jonathan’s entire post could be subtitled, “And you Democrats, too”.

    And that’s fair enough. As I said up thread, I don’t disagree with him on any of those points. As an impeachment activist in Pelosi’s district, I don’t know too many people who are harder on Pelosi than I am or continue to be. If anything, I suspect most Democratic voters who have followed this issue are far more angry with their own party than with the Bush Administration.

    The question I raised here is, does politicizing this issue in this way further the project of accountability? My position is that it does not. It simply leads us further into the weeds.

  18. Truly amazing- Pelosi was caught lying red-handed… and she’s STILL lying.

    Of course, she had no objection to the use of EITs for almost 5 years- until she was Speaker in 2007 and the antiwar left raised it as an issue. Suddenly she’s against it, and/or “knew nothing”. And obviously willing to lie to the whole country to create a more favorable reality.

    Apparently Obama and Pelosi forgot something: the CIA kills people… it’s in their job description. Did they really think these killers were going to meekly take one for the team… when the team captain is a lying, incompetent, arrogant nebbish with no real-world experience and who told them they need to kiss his ring? – please

    Pelosi is a no-talent hack who’s made a lot of enemies. Going to be hard to BS her way out of this one- her approval rating was like 9% before this story even broke.

  19. EF:

    “I don’t understand why you are jumping on the politicizing bandwagon and in particular, by claiming that Democrats want to prosecute the Bush Administration and yet allow complicit Democrats to skip.”

    Please explain your perspective for me. Where and when do you conclude that Professor Turley politicizes jumping on the band wagon and that democats are exzempt from investigation and possible prosecution or pardons?

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