The Bush administration did not inform Congress that it had waterboarded detainees in classified briefings, after the agency had already done so, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged Thursday.
Pelosi told reporters that the administration officials only told her and those in a classified briefing in the fall of 2002 that they believed they had the legal authority to do so, based on Office of Legal Counsel memos which have recently been released by the Obama administration.
"In that or any other briefing...we were not, and I repeat, were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used," said Pelosi. "What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel...opinions that they could be used, but not that they would."
Pelosi said that the officials promised to inform Congress if they ever did waterboard a detainee, but never did so. Her assertion contradicts a recently released Senate committee report that cited CIA records to claim that senior members of Congress in both parties were briefed on the waterboarding, which had already been done to detainee Abu Zubaydah. Pelosi, in the strongest terms should could conjure, said the report was untrue and that she never approved, tacitly or otherwise, the waterboarding of detainees.
"Further to the point was that if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time," said Pelosi. "I know that there's some different interpretations coming out of that meeting. My colleague, the chairman of the [intelligence] committee, has said, well if they say that it's legal you have to know they're going to use it. Well, his experience is that he was a member of the CIA and later went on to head the CIA. Maybe his experience is that they'll tell you one thing but may mean something else."
Pelosi is referring to then-GOP Rep. Porter Goss. "My experience was they did not tell us they were using that, flat out. And any, any contention to the contrary is simply not true," she said.
Republicans have recently been making the case that if Democrats insist on investigating torture, they must own up to their own culpability for remaining silent. Pelosi's insistence that she wasn't briefed on the occurrence of waterboarding is an effort to push back on that offensive.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also pushed back against the GOP Thursday. "They know that this is all Cheney-driven and are making excuses," Reid told the Huffington Post.