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Florida's Graham Backs Pelosi On CIA Briefings

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Florida's Graham Backs Pelosi On CIA Briefings


Florida's Graham Backs Pelosi On CIA Briefings

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What to make of the CIA's records of its own briefings on Capitol Hill? We're going to hear from a former senator who is known for keeping copious records of his own. The subject has become very heated now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has publically disputed the CIA's account of a briefing that she received in September 2002. The question is whether she was told that interrogators were waterboarding detainees.

Well, in those days, Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat, was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And he, too, has disputed the CIA's records of the briefings he received. He joins us from his office in Miami Lakes, Florida.

Welcome to the program once again, Senator Graham.

Senator BOB GRAHAM (Former Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee): Thank you very much, Robert.

SIEGEL: Now, as I understand it, you recently asked the CIA about the dates on which you received briefings from them back in 2002. Is that correct?

Sen. GRAHAM: Yes. Several weeks ago when this issue started to bubble up, I called the CIA and asked for the dates on which I had been briefed. They gave me four: two in April of '02, two in September. I keep a daily log in a spiral notebook. I went back to those logs, which are now located at the University of Florida Library of Florida History, and determined that on three of the four dates there was no briefing held.

On one date, September 27th, '02, there was a briefing held. And according to my notes, it was on the topic of detainee interrogation.

SIEGEL: Now, going back to the dates when the CIA originally said you were briefed and you determined you weren't, was it that those dates were not the dates of briefings? I mean, were there other briefings in May or June? Or they simply had phantom dates when an appointment might have been made but nothing ever happened at all during that time?

Sen. GRAHAM: I think they were phantom dates because the only date of the four where there was a briefing was on September 27th.

SIEGEL: Now, you are known for keeping those spiral notebooks. Your records are very good. When you told this to the CIA, what did they say about the supposed four briefings that you had?

Sen. GRAHAM: Well, initially there was some reticence and they've said, we will check and call back. When they finally did a few days later, they indicated that I was correct that their information was an error, there was no briefing on the first three of the four dates.

SIEGEL: And was there any explanation as to how they had come up with those other dates?

Sen. GRAHAM: No.

SIEGEL: Now, the one briefing, which is confirmed both by your records and the CIA, mentions it was September 27, 2002. It was about three weeks after a controversial briefing of Nancy Pelosi on September 4, 2002. The issue at her briefing was did they tell her that detainees had been waterboarded. As best you can recall, you were not told at your briefing in late September that detainees had been waterboarded.

Sen. GRAHAM: That's correct. There was no discussion of waterboarding, other excessive techniques, or that they'd applied these against any particular detainees.

SIEGEL: I want to read to you some of the things that some Republicans have said about what speaker Pelosi said. Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, now vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says, it is outrageous that a member of Congress would call our terror fighters liars.

House GOP leader John Boehner says, it's hard for me to imagine that our intelligence area would ever mislead a member of Congress.

What do you think of those remarks?

Sen. GRAHAM: Well, the irony of this, Robert, is that the September 27th briefing occurred within a week of the CIA bringing to the Senate Intelligence Committee its National Intelligence Estimate of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So an organization that can be as off-base as the CIA was relative to weapons of mass destruction, it's not surprising that they could be off-base on issues of who did they talk to when relative to interrogation techniques.

SIEGEL: So you're not that impressed with the credibility of the briefers whom you heard from (unintelligible).

Sen. GRAHAM: I'm not impressed with the credibility of the CIA as it was being led in 2002. I think it had become an agency that instead of following the admonition to speak truth to power, it was trying to speak what it thought power wanted to hear.

SIEGEL: Nancy Pelosi says she was misled. When asked if she was lied to by the briefers, she says, yes. Were you misled? Were you lied then?

Sen. GRAHAM: No. I was not misled or lied to. Nothing that I recall being said surprised me or has subsequently proven to be incorrect. It was a matter of omission not commission.

SIEGEL: Just one last question. At the September 27, 2002 briefing that you did get, the one briefing that's confirmed, there was staff present. You were the chair of intelligence. Have you gone back to check with your staff to see that that person's recollection of the briefing and your recollection are the same?

Sen. GRAHAM: The answer is yes. I don't think I would be saying what I have said if that had not been the case.

SIEGEL: Well, Senator Bob Graham, always good to talk with you. Thank you very much for speaking with us today.

Sen. GRAHAM: Thank you very much, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's retired Florida Senator Bob Graham, who back in 2002 was the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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