Friday

CIA lied, Pelosi's credibility died?




Pelosi raises detainee debate to a new level
Accusation that Bush team lied is either calculated, reckless — or both

I think the headline is close but needs a little tweaking to be truly accurate. It should read “Pelosi drops Washington credibility to new low”. It reminds me of the kid who is caught red handed claiming that everyone else is lying.

I think the media is getting closer to getting the gist of this story right. I am not convinced their bias has changed much, just that the evidence is starting to make defending Pelosi something akin to a suicide mission.

The article begins (excerpts from article in bold):

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's extraordinary accusation that the Bush administration lied to Congress about the use of harsh interrogation techniques dramatically raised the stakes in the growing debate over the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies even as it raised some questions about the speaker's credibility.

Pelosi's performance in the Capitol was either a calculated escalation of a long-running feud with the Bush administration or a reckless act by a politician whose word had been called into question. Perhaps it was both.

I am enthused to see a liberal bastion such as MSNBC actually saying what most on the right already know. I can answer one question for them though; given Pelosi’s track record I am going to have to say that this was not a calculated political move but simply the 11th hour carping of a moronic partisan.

For the first time, Pelosi (D-Calif.) acknowledged that in 2003 she was informed by an aide that the CIA had told others in Congress that officials had used waterboarding during interrogations. But she insisted, contrary to CIA accounts, that she was not told about waterboarding during a September 2002 briefing by agency officials. Asked whether she was accusing the CIA of lying, she replied, "Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States."

I don’t understand the distinction. She was either informed by the CIA in 2002 or an aid in 2003. In either case she is in the unenviable position of having ignored the information for years before becoming a vocal opponent of the practices. If she is so morally opposed to the use these techniques then why the delay in acting, why not expose the “torture” immediately. I know she has an excuse for that we will address that shortly.

It is worth noting that she seems to be the lone voice in the wilderness screeching the CIA lied and my credibility died.

Champions and villains
Washington now is engaged in a battle royal of finger-pointing, second-guessing and self-defense, all over techniques President Obama banned in the first days of his administration. Both sides in this debate believe they have something to prove -- and gain -- by keeping the fight alive.

Both sides have champions and villains. Pelosi has become a lightning rod for criticism from conservatives, and a hero to the left, much as former vice president Richard B. Cheney has become a target of the left and the darling of many on the right.
The speaker's charges about the CIA's alleged deception and her shifting accounts of what she knew and when she knew it are likely to add to calls for some kind of independent body to investigate this supercharged issue, though Obama and many members of Congress would like to avoid a wholesale unearthing of the past at a time when their plates are full with pressing concerns.

I have a hard time believing that the Obama administration is upset with the controversy. That’s akin to saying soldiers are opposed to camouflage in combat. This kind of subterfuge seems to serve well to obscure Obama’s rush to socialism and in fact seems to be an often used technique in his bag of tricks.

The CIA said the briefing included Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter J. Goss (Fla.), who was the committee chairman at the time and who later became CIA director. Two House aides also attended. The CIA's account said the subject was enhanced interrogation techniques and the particular methods used on Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known by the nom de guerre Abu Zubaida.

Five months later, on Feb. 5, 2003, after Pelosi had left the intelligence committee, the CIA briefed the panel's chairman and ranking minority-party member on the detainee interrogation program. Pelosi said her aide Michael Sheehy, who attended that briefing as well as the September briefing, told her that agency officials said they had used waterboarding in some cases. "He said that the committee chair and ranking member and appropriate staff had been briefed that these techniques were now being used," she said yesterday. "That's all I was informed."

Isn’t that enough? She seems to be saying “all they told me they were torturing people and that was it”. Okay.

Conservatives say that, if Pelosi was so opposed to torture, she should have spoken out forcefully when she learned that these techniques were being employed. Her failure to do so then leaves her in a weakened position to protest now, they argue. An op-ed article by senior Bush White House adviser Karl Rove in yesterday's Wall Street Journal asked directly: "So is the speaker of the House lying about what she knew and when? And, if so, what will Democrats do about it?"

Pelosi gave some ground on the question of whether she had been informed that waterboarding was being used -- though by her account she did not learn about it until February 2003, rather than in 2002, and then only from her aide. Instead of registering her protest to the administration, she said, she set out to help Democrats win control of Congress and elect a Democrat as president.

That has to be the most ludicrous answer I have ever heard. If she wanted to set about helping the Democrats win she could have blown the whistle in 2003 before the general election. That would have prevented Bush from being elected to his second term (assuming the general population agreed with Pelosi). Instead she began protesting most loudly after Obama won in 2008. That makes no sense whatsoever, except maybe to radical liberal partisans.

But in attempting to defend herself, Pelosi took the remarkable step of trying to shift the focus of blame to the CIA and the Bush administration, claiming that the CIA accounts represented a diversionary tactic in the real debate over the interrogation policies. That amounted to a virtual declaration of war against the CIA at a time when the Obama administration already has rattled morale at the agency with the release of Justice Department memos authorizing the harsh interrogation techniques.

House Republican Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) was quick to challenge Pelosi. Within minutes of her contentious news conference, he emerged to question her accusations. He left no doubt that Republicans believe that the speaker has made a major misstep that will hurt her and perhaps her party as this controversy plays out.

In a perfect world a politician who lied would be ousted, I am under no such illusions that the Republican minority will be able to engineer such a coup.

Own priorities
The various parties all have their own priorities now. Pelosi not only wants to clear her name but also favors a truth commission to answer questions about how the interrogation policies came to be and whether they were as effective as Cheney and others claim. Cheney is determined to defend the policies he helped shape and to force the new administration into a different posture on its anti-terrorism strategy. Outside groups, and the grass-roots activists they speak for, are prepared to continue litigating the Bush presidency.

This could have been answered by the release of the memos that Chaney requested. No such luck no one seems interested in the truth as much as the political capital gained from this exercise in futility.

Obama has already moved on his policies, deciding to fight the public release of photos showing U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners after earlier saying he favored their release. He cited potential danger for U.S. soldiers that could be caused by the photos' release, but he must have concluded that the photos would set off another storm at home as well.

This is another disingenuous argument. If Obama wanted to prevent the release of the photos he could have done so with an executive order. What he has done is ensure that they will be released but that he can argue that he tried to stop them (not so much).

The president wants the focus kept on the future and the energies of his entire administration, from the CIA to the Defense Department, as well as the relevant committees on Capitol Hill, engaged in producing an effective policy in Afghanistan and sorting through such difficult questions as what to do with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, once that facility is closed next year.

It seems like he should have had a plan on what to do with the detainees before he closed the base. It is tantamount to starting a long journey with no destination. We will unfortunately see this theme repeated with environmental issues as well. We will raise the costs on conventional fuels with cap and trade before we have any alternative in place.

Pelosi is not out of the woods. She could have saved herself some trouble by admitting earlier that she had been informed that the CIA was using waterboarding. By doing what she did yesterday, she has assured that she will remain a central character in the political fight that is raging. But whether by design or accident, she also succeeded in enlarging a controversy that is no longer a sideshow.

What a tangled web we weave when at first we practice to deceive.

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