CIA: Pelosi Knew Of Interrogation In '02

A report from the CIA says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew about harsh interrogation methods in 2002. Pelosi (D-CA) says she learned the administration maintained such methods were legal, but was not informed they were actually being used.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris. We begin this hour with the ongoing torture debate and a memo. But this is not one of the Justice Department's torture memos. It's new - sent from the CIA to some members of Congress this week, and it's raising questions about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew and when. The memo summarizes briefings given to leading members of Congress on the Bush administration's so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

Speaker Pelosi was among the first lawmakers to be briefed, though, she insists the CIA failed to tell her it had already used waterboarding on a key detainee. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA: In the memo sent to top members of the House and Senate intelligence panels, CIA director, Leon Panetta, lists 33 briefings on enhanced interrogation techniques, as well as seven hearings on the matter. The dates, participants and content of the briefings are based on what Panetta describes as actual memos from those events, as well as what he calls the best recollections of CIA briefers.

He warns, though, that in the end, the members of Congress will have to decide for themselves whether that information is in fact an accurate summary of what actually happened. Some have already reached their own conclusions.

Representative PETER HOEKSTRA (Republican, Michigan; House Intelligence Committee): Well, I think it shows clearly that Congress was involved almost from the inception of this program.

WELNA: That's Peter Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. It was Hoekstra who requested the CIA memo. The very first briefing it lists was on September 4th, 2002, a week before the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And shortly after terrorist suspect, Abu Zubaydah, was waterboarded by the CIA 83 times in one month.

Former CIA director, Porter Goss, who was at the time chairman of the House intelligence panel, was at the briefing. So was that panel's top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi. Hoekstra said today the CIA makes it clear in its memo that the briefing was about the enhanced interrogation techniques being used.

Rep. HOEKSTRA: Therefore, when they put in the notes, enhanced interrogation techniques used on Abu Zubaydah were described in detail, it naturally would've included waterboarding, unless they were lying and withholding information from Ms. Pelosi.

WELNA: Pelosi, who's in Jordan on a congressional trip today, issued a statement saying she was briefed only once about enhanced interrogation techniques. She referred to a statement she made in 2007, saying those were techniques the Bush administration was considering using in the future. At a news conference two weeks ago, she said she was not told Abu Zubaydah had already been waterboarded.

Representative NANCY PELOSI: (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): We were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us is that they had some office of legislative council opinions that they could be used, but not that they would. And they further - the point was that if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time.

WELNA: A CIA spokesman today declined to say whether Pelosi had been told about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. The CIA memo makes no specific mention of waterboarding having been discussed at her briefing. But it does assert that other members of Congress were briefed on waterboarding even before the CIA stopped using that technique five years ago. Again, Congressman Hoekstra.

Rep. HOEKSTRA: So there was an extended period of time where if members felt strongly that it was inappropriate for the United States to have this as an approved technique, they could've stopped it on the other two individuals and they could've made sure that it was not even part of the program that could be used.

WELNA: But the briefings members of Congress received were all classified. Pelosi said that severely limited their ability to raise red flags about the enhanced interrogation techniques.

Rep. PELOSI: There is no ability for members to take this any place, because you are - you can't even take it to your other colleagues on the committee.

WELNA: Pelosi is calling for a truth commission to get to the bottom of who knew what and who did what when. Hoekstra prefers congressional hearings.

Rep. HOEKSTRA: If there are going to be hearings, the first hearing should be done calling in members of Congress.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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