Congress’s Leaders Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

(8:13PM EST 12/9/07   – promoted by LithiumCola)

I’ve been reading the reports of the fact that Congressional Leaders, including Speaker Pelosi, were briefed about the CIA’s interrogation procedures and overseas detention programs.  I’ve read Matt Stoller’s comments about the mood of many people in the country, and the Congress at the time that these leaders were briefed in 2002:

“…The country went insane from 2001-2003… don’t buy that this stuff is new or restricted to our political leadership.  In all honesty, I don’t know that if I were in Pelosi’s position at that time that I would have objected.  Fear is powerful and I don’t assume that I would have done well in that environment, though I like to think that most of us have learned enough to change our relationship to human rights and authority in the last few years….Nevertheless, our collective failures, and Nancy Pelosi’s specific moral albatross, is to address this country’s use of torture. ..”

There’s More:  

The Washington Post and Raw Story reported on the Congressional Briefings:

The Washington Post Reports that Congressional leaders were briefed on waterboarding in 2002 and  In Meetings, Spy Panels’ Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say:

“…In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk…”

“…Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised…Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said…”  The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,” said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange…

“…Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism effort…

Raw Story Reports: (Emphasis mine)

Pelosi would later boot sole objector to program from chance to chair Intelligence Committee:

“…Only Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) — then the second-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who would supplant Pelosi in 2003 — formally objected.  Harman…who was set to lead the House Intelligence Committee when the Democrats retook the chamber in 2006, was pushed aside by Pelosi when she took over as Speaker…”

Harman,who replaced Pelosi as the committee’s top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program,” the Post notes. “Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA’s program because of strict rules of secrecy.”

Yes, the period following the attacks on the twin towers and Pentagon were turbulent, and hindsight is always 20/20, but Leaders who refuse to admit to mistakes or own up to the consequences doom us and themselves to repeat them.  

I’m not a Congressional Leader who had access to all the information that Pelosi and Co. had in 2002.  I question why Rep. Harman-who always seemed to me to be much more of a hawk than Pelosi-had the knowledge, conscience and courage to object to interrogation techniques that she knew were very likely against the Geneva Conventions-and to question why Pelosi did not.

If Pelosi came to question her decision to allow waterboarding and overseas detention centers to continue without objection in 2002,  why did she remove the only person who did object, Rep. Harman, from the House Intelligence Committee?  Was it for the publicly stated reasons, was it because of personal animosity, or was it because Rep. Harman objected to waterboarding and Pelosi did not?  


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  1. I have to run out for a while, but will be back this evening to check the comments.

  2. … I think Pelosi rejected Harman for political reasons, not because of Harman’s stance on torture.

    Two things here.  One is that the article quotes “officials” who were at the meeting — and undoubtedly they were Republican officials.  I’m pretty certain this article coming out now is political payback to the Dems from the Repubs.

    I find the “excuse” of “oh, it was so terrible in 2002, NO ONE could have protested without being called a traitor” absolutely craven and wrongheaded.  Russ Feingold didn’t vote for the AUMF and he certainly hasn’t been chased out of Congress.  I’m sure he has indeed paid consequences for his political stance — that’s what all leaders should do, imo.

    I wish Pelosi would respond to this.  If indeed she did wrong in 2002, where has the pushback been against torture now?  I don’t see it.  Frankly, I don’t see much of any pushback at all from our Dem caucus leadership.

    I am disgusted with the lack of opposition from our Democratic leadership, but I really have to wonder who was behind this story and who those “officials” were — also how much information Pelosi and the Dems really got in those meetings.

  3. know what to do anymore. Leave the country I guess.

    It only gets worse .


  4. I just read on the bO from a comment that the information was classified .  I do not know if that is true or not as there is nothing after that comment to verify or null the information .  I would look it up, but my head is exploding and I think I am going to vomit . Taking a nap to try and escape.

    LoL  ;(

    this is the comment:

    “It was classified.  

    Nobody could talk about a single aspect without being charged with treason.

    The fact that Porter Goss is pointing his crooked finger in the direction of the Democrats and saying that they didn’t object is evidence enough that the republicans are trying to wiggle themselves out of another corrupt situation.  The Democrats had no input, they were merely being informed.”

    by nupstateny on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 11:36:34 AM PST

    in this diary

    It seems I have been reduced to grasping at unconfirmed straws .

    gonna go take that nap . Hope things have changed if/when I wake up. 😉

    • Edger on December 9, 2007 at 21:44

    Yeah…. they’re different from rethugs. Anyone who says they aren’t is crazy.

  5. I wrote a response in Matt’s post:

    Are you out of your mind?

    I am astonished beyond measure that you could write such an ignorant post.

    First, is not everyone aware that the recent NIE scandal over Iran is pushing a big cloud of darkness towards Bush and Cheney?  Is not everyone aware that Bush and Cheney resort to one strategy only when their crimes are being revealed?

    Yes, they attack the attackers.  So now we are reading about a 2002 briefing — before Pelosi was Speaker of the House, by the way.  Now we know that this meeting was held under the ridiculous and criminal level of secrecy and abuse of power this Administration has always been known for.

    No one could take notes.  No one could even talk about it.  Two representatives wrote letters of protest no one could read.

    And for some reason, this story from 2002 is now being given a rather large portion of attention from the Washington Post.  Oh.  What a surprise.

    And your response, Matt?  That if YOU had been in that situation you may have not objected?  All that statement does is make me very glad you are not a US representative in Congress.

    Pelosi was afraid.  Right.  And I am Marie, Queen of Rumania.

    This was a political act by an out of control Executive Branch, whose abuse of power was continually being rubberstamped by a Republican majority Congress and weakly opposed by an ineffectual Democratic minority, of which Nancy Pelosi was a member (and which ineffectualness, by the way, was one of the major reasons the left blogosphere came into being, to call out these Republican tactics the Dems were too clueless to name).

    I am not fond right now of Nancy Pelosi.  I think the Democratic majority in Congress is suffering from lack of unity and poor leadership.

    But fear?  No, I don’t think Nancy Pelosi was afraid and I reject any nonsensical psychological explanation of the terror we felt after 9/11.

    To me there are two things to focus on here.  One is that the Repubs are scared over this new NIE scandal and are flinging mud through the traditional media as they always do in hopes of distracting us.  With this post of yours, Matt, unfortunately they have succeded.

    Two – the Democratic caucus now in the majority has done a piss poor job of changing anything – from the rhetoric (framing) to being a real opposition.

    All the rest is noise and whistles.

    Now I’m no ek honbeck or armando, and if anyone can help cut through the thicket of “Village” bullshit from Matt Stoller, I will defer.

    But posts like Matt’s point us in the WRONG direction, I think.  And I think we are very luck we have ek hornbeck and armando to show us better analytical methods to cut through the horseshit we see in the traditional media (and on all to many left blogs).

    Frankly, I’m not sure what ek means by “Village,” but I’m beginning to think it’s anyone who has the “insider” disease of Beltway-itis and writes shit like this post from Stoller.

    Again, I defer to anyone else who can say this better, but I strongly believe this whole Pelosi story stinks to high heaven and is trying to take advantage of our justifiable anger towards her to distract us from the Iran NIE.

    P.S.:  I have to give a h/t to Detroit Mark over at Daily Kos, who nudged me to realize what a distraction this story is intended to be.  I don’t agree with his entire analysis, but he’s right that this story stinks of Rovian evil.

    Will link, if you wish.

  6. it might be good to see her letter.

    I wouldn’t take it at face value just yet that Harmon was violently opposed to torture but could do nothing about it because of classification.  It may be true but she obviously had a powerful weapon to hold over the heads of the torturers if she wanted to use her megaphone at whatever cost to herself.

    Be nice to know now who knew and when they knew.

    IMO anybody that condoned torture has no right to be in Congress, let alone in the leadership of Congress.  Betcha many knew besides those who were officially briefed.

    Oh yeah, we did convict some low level military for torture.

    Hooray for us.

    Best,  Terry

  7. Thanks, serendipity!

    If I wouldn’t have suggested in a post there that Conyers is a fucking idiot, I might still have posting privileges.

    Some people are so touchy.  It was just some constructive criticism.  

    • ANKOSS on December 10, 2007 at 05:06

    The absurdity of the DKos mission to “elect democrats” is now excruciatingly obvious. Pelosi and Reid have been on board with torture and war crimes since day one. That is why impeachment was taken off the table. They are all complicit in the Bush horror show. Both of our political “parties” serve the permanent plutocratic government. Our democracy is lost.

    • Valtin on December 11, 2007 at 06:59

    But I don’t remember that anyone was lynched.

    As to Harman’s removal, we may never know. But my instincts tell me it was not related to Harman’s position on waterboarding. Pelosi replaced Harman with a real CIA lover. Harman has been quite the friend to the government on FISA, etc.

    Right, left, left, right… once you’ve entered the hall of mirrors, it’s hard to know a hawk from a handsaw.

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