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Sam Sedaei

Sam Sedaei

Posted: May 18, 2009 12:10 PM

Democrites: Nancy Pelosi and Torture


Congressional Democrats and President Obama ran on the platform of significantly changing the direction of this country, from domestic policy to national security. But lately, Democrats have been taking a number of actions on national security that are alarming at best and hypocritical at worst. This post is the first of the blog series "Democrites," coming from the perspective of a member of loyal opposition, to call Democrats out on their questionable actions when they occur.

For years, the House Speaker has condemned the use of torture, or what the Republican spin machine calls "enhanced interrogation techniques." But newly released memos last week showed that Pelosi was briefed by the CIA as early as 2002 about the use of these specific techniques, and specifically water-boarding. Despite these revelations, even Representative Pelosi didn't claim to have spoken up against torture.

These events promoted her to eventually hold a press conference with the intent of clearing doubt. But instead, she created more concern by giving a poor performance, desperately going back to her notes and a written statement in response to every question and accusing the CIA of lying. This is an extraordinary charge on the part of Representative Pelosi that warrants either actual evidence to counter the CIA memos or a full-hearted apology to the men and women of our intelligence community. We have seen a member of intelligence community becoming the victim of politics; her name was Valerie Plame. And we have already had a politician who accused an American government agency of deceit and disloyalty; his name was Joseph McCarthy.

Representative Pelosi could not have publicly criticized the CIA in 2003 for the use of torture because of the confidentiality of those actions. But she could have strongly objected to their use behind closed doors or threatened the Bush administration to come out with this internationally illegal interrogations technique, but she did neither. She could have also refrained from criticizing water-boarding after the public outrage leveled up in the ensuing years in order to remain consistent, but she did the opposite and became a vocal opponent of torture as if she had opposed it all along. And when the CIA memos came out and Representative Pelosi accused the CIA of lying, Leon Panetta -- the current CIA Director, and, until recently, Nancy Pelosi's former Congressional colleague and fellow Democrat from California -- came out with a statement that left a way for her to get out of her own predicament. Panetta's statement read as follows: "our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'" Referring to "contemporaneous" memos is far from any kind of sharp attack on Rep. Pelosi. She could have easily contested the accuracy of those contemporaneous memos instead of extraordinarily accuse the CIA of lying.

It is hard to predict what Nancy Pelosi is going to do to change (or stop) the debate on what she knew and when she knew it. But by taking many wrong steps on water-boarding -- starting with her silence in 2003 -- she has effectively made the possibility of a Truth Commission and prosecution of those who ordered them during the Bush years more remote because Democrats are now going to be much less inclined to support a process that can get themselves into hot water.


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