THE BLOG

Don't Resign Nancy

06/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Republicans are keeping up their attacks on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and Governor Huckabee forming a troika in calling for Pelosi's resignation because of her statements regarding enhanced interrogation methods and the CIA. These calls for her resignation truly stretch the bounds of credulity.

Let's look at the facts. According to the CIA charts that were recently released, the CIA conducted 40 Congressional briefings that discussed enhanced interrogation methods. The records indicate that Speaker Pelosi was present at only one of those briefings. The CIA notes make no mention of whether water boarding was discussed. That one briefing took place on September 4, 2002 and according to Pelosi, the CIA told her that they would use enhanced interrogation techniques but that the Department of Justice had concluded that all the techniques were legal. Pelosi also stated that if further methods were to be used, the CIA indicated it would come back to brief Congress about this. She maintains that at no time did the CIA tell her that they were utilizing water boarding.

In 2003, one of Pelosi's aides attended a CIA briefing with Pelosi's successor on the House Intelligence Committee, California Democrat Jane Harman. At that meeting, waterboarding was apparently discussed. After the meeting, Harman wrote to the CIA expressing concern about the techniques being utilized and Speaker Pelosi said she told an aide to let Harman know that she concurred with the letter.

Now for former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who himself was the subject of 83 ethics allegations when he was Speaker and paid $300,000 for the cost of the investigation into one of those charges, to call for Pelosi's resignation is ironic at best. The very conduct in question -- the illegal use of waterboarding -- was promulgated by the Bush Administration, not Pelosi. The illegal activity should be the subject at the heart of the issue, not criticisms as to why Pelosi didn't intuit from what appears to be a vague briefing, to whistleblow about the use of the techniques.

Moreover, Gingrich claims that Pelosi should resign because she said the CIA lied to her and somehow that makes the country less safe. Questioning the veracity of CIA briefings and documents is actually very commonplace and has been done by the very same critics who are now attacking Pelosi. In fact, House Intelligence committee member, Republican Peter Hoekstra, said last year, on the subject of a different issue involving the CIA, "This issue goes to the heart of the American people's ability to trust the CIA. Americans deserve to know that agencies given the power to operate on their behalf aren't abusing that power or their trust." And Speaker Gingrich himself has targeted the CIA when in 2007 he described a National Intelligence Estimate document on Iran as "fundamentally misleading" and "a deliberate attempt to undermine the policies of President Bush by members of his own government."

Since when shouldn't Congress question the veracity of actions and statements made by an agency. Indeed, the very purpose of the Church committee, which in the 1970's was set up to investigate illegal activities by US intelligence agencies in the wake of the Vietnam War and Watergate, was to have more Congressional oversight over our intelligence agencies.
Ultimately, the partisan attacks leveled by Gingrich et al are just that-partisan attacks that provide a harbinger of what is to come in 2012 when Gingrich and Hucakbee run for President as top contenders. Let's hope the country can focus in the interim on what's important-keeping America safe and adhering to the principles upon which this country was founded.