Pelosi Says She Was Misled On Waterboarding

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the CIA had lied to her about the use of waterboarding in September 2002 against detainees in the war on terrorism. The speaker said she asked about the technique that many consider torture and was told it was not being used.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made a serious charge against the CIA. She said the agency misled Congress. For the first time the speaker addressed a memo that was sent to Congress by the CIA. That memo said members of Congress from both parties had received 40 briefings over the years on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that includes waterboarding, which many consider torture.

SIEGEL: The memo also listed Speaker Pelosi as taking part in the very first of those briefings. And her statements today are the latest escalation on a struggle between Congress and the intelligence community over the war on terror and the treatment of detainees. NPR's David Welna has our report.

DAVID WELNA: The CIA memo was sent to Congress last week with a disclaimer from CIA director Leon Panetta. He said it was based on the best recollections of the briefers and the Congress would have to decide whether the information was an accurate summary of what actually happened.

The memo, which House Republicans requested, says on September 4th, 2002, when Nancy Pelosi was the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, she was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques used on terror suspect Abu Zubaydah, including a description of the techniques employed. According to a Justice Department memo, Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times in the previous month. At a news conference today, Pelosi flatly denied having been told about that waterboarding.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): In the briefing that I received we were told that they had legal opinions that this was legal. We were not told that it was - that there were other legal opinions to the contrary in the administration. And we were told specifically that waterboarding was not being used.

WELNA: A reporter sought to clarify the charge being made by Pelosi.

Unidentified Man: Just to be clear, you're accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002.

Rep. PELOSI: Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.

WELNA: Pelosi later added, quote, �They mislead us all the time.� She said if the CIA maintains its allegations are based on memos of the briefings, those memos should be declassified and released.

Rep. PELOSI: I would be very happy if they would release the briefings. And then you will see what they briefed in one time and another, House and Senate and the rest. And perhaps with the intense interest that this has generated because of the distraction that the Republicans want to cause with this, then you can make a judgment yourself about what you think these briefings were.

WELNA: Other members of Congress were later told about waterboarding done on three detainees and House Minority Leader John Boehner today suggested Pelosi had also been told.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): And when you look at the number of briefings that the speaker was in and other Democrat members of the House in Senate, it's pretty clear that they were well aware of what these enhanced interrogation techniques were. They were well aware that they had been used. And it seems to me that they want to have it both ways.

WELNA: Still, Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House intelligence panel would not contradict Pelosi.

Representative PETE HOEKSTRA (Republican, Michigan; House Intelligence Panel): I can't make that judgment. I was not in that meeting. I know that there were people who were in that meeting who have a very different recollection of what occurred in that meeting, what was told.

WELNA: In a separate development the CIA today said it won't release two memos former Vice President Cheney has requested. Memos, he says, show the CIA interrogations worked and helped to keep the nation safe.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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