If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.

 

Pelosi's Tortured Explanation

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

Friday, May 01, 2009

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been pushing for a "truth commission" to investigate the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques like waterboarding -- until Republicans started shining the spotlight on Pelosi herself. Now she is not so adamant.

Spokesman Brendan Daly told me that Pelosi wants a truth commission, "but she still realizes the political reality" -- as in the opposition of President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The rest of the reality may well be this: Pelosi knew that White House lawyers had sanctioned waterboarding in 2002 -- and did not protest.

According to the Senate Intelligence committee, the CIA briefed Pelosi, then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah -- who was waterboarded -- in 2002.

The Washington Post reported in 2007 that the 2002 briefing provided Pelosi and company with a "virtual tour" of interrogation techniques. At the time of the story, a congressional source speaking for Pelosi, however, told the Post that Pelosi thought waterboarding was in the planning stages. The source admitted Pelosi did not object.

Who then is Pelosi to go after Bush lawyers for sanctioning waterboarding, which she now refers to as torture? This is what Pelosi told reporters last week: "We were not -- I repeat -- we were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used." Yes, the Bush Office of Legal Counsel said the techniques "could be used," she explained, "but not that they would."

So Pelosi thought that just because the Bushies were sticking out their necks and authorizing the CIA's use of waterboarding, that did not mean the CIA would use it. And the Democrats called George W. Bush dim and ineffective?

Note that Pelosi used the term "enhanced interrogation methods" when referring to her CIA briefing. Not torture. On Tuesday, Pelosi added a twist to the story. She told CNN that the briefers "said they had a legal opinion they said they weren't going to use and when they did they would come back to Congress to report to us on that."

Daly added, "There's really not a whole lot you can do when you're being briefed" and you're a member of the minority. Then what is the point of having a bipartisan intelligence committee? Why not just buy a rubber stamp? Porter Goss, the House Intelligence Committee chairman in 2002 who went on to become director of the CIA has a different recollection. As he wrote in the Washington Post, he, Pelosi and the ranking Senate Intelligence Committee members were briefed extensively, "understood what the CIA was doing," and "gave the CIA our bipartisan support." Goss was "slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were actually to be employed."

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, has called on the director of national intelligence to release complete CIA briefing documents -- including information as to who attended and what was said, so that Americans will know what congressional leaders like Pelosi knew. Daly told me that Pelosi supports that effort, as she generally believes in transparency.

Good riddance to a "truth commission." It's pretty sickening to think some Democrats have been poised to investigate and possibly prosecute those who sanctioned waterboarding in 2002. Yet when Pelosi knew the White House was pushing it, she did not try to move heaven and earth to make sure it never happened.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

See Other Political Commentary

S ee Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.