It may be one of the biggest scandals in US history: the "they said/she said" power play between the CIA and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. As more and more information comes out to show just how sadistic and truly tortuous our "interrogations" of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydeh were, the need to spread the blame intensifies.
So naturally, the best expert on this issue is the disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, only too happy to tighten the noose around the neck of Pelosi a little more.
WALLACE: House Speaker Pelosi continues to deny that she was ever briefed on the enhanced interrogation techniques that were actually used against Al Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah.
But a newly released list of congressional briefings -- and let’s put it up -- says that Pelosi received, quote, “a description of the particular EITs,” or enhanced interrogation techniques, “that had been employed,” this just a month after Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times.
How do you explain the discrepancy?
GINGRICH: Well, I think she has a lot of explaining to do. I don’t. She clearly -- she’s now changed her story again and said well, she’d been reassured they were all legal. So initially she didn’t know about it, had not been briefed. Then she had been briefed, but it wasn’t clear. Now she’d been briefed and, in fact, had been told it was all legal so she didn’t worry about it.
I think she has, you know, a lot of explaining to do. I think on national security matters, she has an obligation either to say nothing or to tell the truth. And it’s pretty clear in this case she’s not telling the truth.
Newt Gingrich: Judge, Jury and Executioner. But there's no partisan gain here. Let's be clear: If it in fact does turn out that Nancy Pelosi knew that they had waterboarded Zubaydeh 83 times over the space of 30 days and said or did nothing, let's not excuse it or whitewash it. She has to accept responsibility for her actions.
BUT...and this is where Newt is disingenuous...there is no evidence that the CIA was truthful in their informing Pelosi and moreover, quite a bit of past history of being less than forthcoming. There is absolutely no reason why we should accept the CIA's version as gospel, especially considering how politicized it was during the Bush administration. In fact, it appears that the CIA didn't even inform Pelosi of their use of waterboarding until AFTER Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded:
Here's what Greg found in looking at the documents:
But the documents are inconclusive on a key charge being made by Republicans — that she had been told of the use of waterboarding, one of the harshest and most controversial torture techniques."EIT" refers to "enhanced interrogation techniques." As you can see (graphic of document at the site), the document says that on September 4th, 2002, she was briefed on the "use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah" and a "description of the particular EITs that had been employed." It’s the only time Pelosi was briefed.
This does not say whether she was told specifically about waterboarding. By contrast, elsewhere in the documents, descriptions of other later briefings to members of Congress repeatedly specify they’d been told about waterboarding.
What's more, as Greg points out in a follow up, in the letter to Congress that accompanied the document release, Panetta said that the documents might not actually be "an accurate summary of what actually happened" because they were "memorandum for the record" based on the "best recollections" of staff. So as Greg says, "the CIA isn’t willing to vouch for the accuracy of the info about the briefings in the docs, and that only further inquiry will produce a reliable recounting of what happened."