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Graham: CIA Gave Me False Information About Interrogation Briefings

First Posted: 06/14/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:20 PM ET

Graham

In testimony that could bolster Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA misled her during briefings on detainee interrogations, former Senator Bob Graham insisted on Thursday that he too was kept in the dark about the use of waterboarding, and called the agency's records on these briefings "suspect."

In an interview with the Huffington Post, the former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman said that approximately a month ago, the CIA provided him with false information about how many times and when he was briefed on enhanced interrogations.

"When this issue started to resurface I called the appropriate people in the agency and said I would like to know the dates from your records that briefings were held," Graham recalled. "And they contacted me and gave me four dates -- two in April '02 and two in September '02. Now, one of the things I do, and for which I have taken some flack, is keep a spiral notebook of what I do throughout the day. And so I went through my records and through a combination of my daily schedule, which I keep, and my notebooks, I confirmed and the CIA agreed that my notes were accurate; that three of those four dates there had been no briefing. There was only one day that I had been briefed, which was September the 27th of 2002."

As for the one briefing he did attend, the Florida Democrat said that he had "no recollection that issues such as waterboarding were discussed." He was not, per the sensitive nature of the matters discussed, allowed to take notes at the time. But he did highlight what he considered to be pretty strong proof that the controversial technique was not discussed.

"What struck me...was the fact that in that briefing, there were also two staff members," he said. "As you know, the general rule is that the executive is to brief the full committees of the House and Senate Intelligence committees about any ongoing or proposed action. The exception to that is what is called "covert action," where the president...only briefs the Gang of Eight, which is the four congressional leaders and the four intelligence committee leaders. Those sessions are generally conducted at an executive site, primarily at the White House itself. And they are conducted with just the authorized personnel, not with any staff or any other member of the committee.... Which leads me to conclude that this was not considered by the CIA to be a Gang of Eight briefing. Otherwise they would not have had staff in the room. And that leads me to then believe that they didn't brief us on any of the sensitive programs such as the waterboarding or other forms of excessive interrogation."

The remarks made by Graham bolster the comments offered by Pelosi on Thursday. The Speaker told reporters that during her briefing session in the fall of 2002 she was not just kept in the dark about the issue of waterboarding, she was assured that it had not been used.

"Yes, I am saying that the CIA was misleading the Congress," she said.

However, records and testimony do show that high-ranking aides were present during a February 2003 briefing when waterboarding was discussed by the CIA with Reps. Porter Goss and Jane Harman.

Graham declined to speculate as to what took place during Pelosi's briefings, noting that the House and Senate had two entirely different sessions. But he did point out that, at the time, "the whole credibility of the intelligence committee, particularly the CIA, was pretty much in question" -- giving credence to Pelosi's claims that she was given faulty information.

"The irony," said Graham, "is that the whole series of events in late September of '02 were concurrent with the CIA's release of the first classified version of the National Intelligence Estimate, which was one of the key factors that led me to vote against the war in Iraq because I thought that their case was so weak. And they were making to the public these very bold statements about how we were in extreme danger if we didn't move quickly to eradicate Saddam Hussein. The whole, 'a smoking gun may appear in the form of a mushroom cloud' kind of argument."


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