CIA Director Leon Panetta yesterday let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Democrat, have it with both barrels.
Without naming his one-time House colleague — who, a day earlier, had charged that Panetta’s agency “mislead[s] us all the time” — the CIA chief sent an agency-wide memo citing “the long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business.”
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As for Pelosi’s accusation that the agency lied about what she’d been told in 2002 about waterboarding, Panetta said:
“It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress . . . CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed.’ ”
Over at the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pointedly declined an opportunity to defend Pelosi, citing President Obama’s call to “look forward.”
Take that, Nancy.
Actually, Washington has never seen anything like Pelosi’s ever-shifting tales of what she’d been told of CIA interrogation techniques. Even Richard Nixon didn’t have this much trouble explaining what he knew and when he knew it.
The issue, of course, is that if Pelosi knew that waterboarding — which she now sanctimoniously describes as an illegal “torture” technique — was on the CIA’s list of practices at Gitmo, why didn’t she raise a ruckus at the time?
To which Pelosi says: “No letter could [have changed] that policy.” Instead, she says, she focused on “chang[ing] the leadership in Congress and the White House. That was my job.”
But now she seems to want anyone in the Bush administration who even uttered the word locked up.
Pelosi wouldn’t be in such trouble if she’d just acknowledge that she didn’t object to waterboarding because, in the aftermath of 9/11, protecting America was Job One — and Washington didn’t care what it took to get the job done.
As New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer told a Senate hearing in 2004:
“I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake.”
“It’s easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used,” he added. “But when you’re in the foxhole, it’s a very different deal.”
Panetta, though, had the wisest response to to Pelosi’s charges: “We have too much work to do,” he told his staff yesterday, “to be distracted from our job of protecting the country.