Pelosi says CIA lied to her about its use of waterboarding torture

 

HOUSE SPEAKER Nancy Pelosi has claimed that the CIA lied to her about the use of waterboarding on alleged terrorists held in secret prisons. Ms Pelosi said that the CIA told her in September 2002 that although waterboarding – a form of controlled suffocation by water – was approved by the Bush administration, it had not been used.

A recently declassified legal memo from the Bush administration states that Abu Zubaydah, an alleged al-Qaeda operative, was subjected to waterboarding at least 82 times during August 2002. “We were told that they had legal opinions that it was legal and were not told about other legal opinions to the contrary,” Ms Pelosi told reporters yesterday.

“We were told specifically that waterboarding was not being used.” The speaker, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee until late in 2002, said she was subsequently told of a briefing during which the CIA acknowledged that waterboarding had been used. Her successor on the committee, Jane Harman, later wrote to the CIA to complain about the practice.

Ms Pelosi has faced relentless criticism since it emerged that she knew that waterboarding had been used, but she insisted yesterday that both the CIA and the Bush administration misled Congress and the public.

“The Bush administration was misleading the American people about the threats of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” she said.

“The CIA was misleading the Congress. At the same time, the administration was misleading the Congress on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” Ms Pelosi rejected the charge that her failure to protest against the use of waterboarding meant she was complicit in the use of torture. She said that, although Congress was briefed on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, it was powerless to stop the torture.

“This is a policy that was conceived and implemented by the Bush administration,” she said.

“Throughout my career, I have been proud to work for human rights and against torture around the world. I unequivocally oppose the use of torture by our government, because it is contrary to our values.” House Republican leader John Boehner said that Ms Pelosi’s comments raised more questions than they answered. Declaring that the speaker “has had way too many stories”, he said it was hard to believe that the CIA would mislead Congress. “I don’t know what motive they would have to mislead anyone,” he said.

Ms Pelosi called on the CIA to release details of the intelligence briefing she received in September 2002 and expressed support for a truth commission to investigate the Bush administration’s interrogation policy.

“I have long supported creation of an independent truth commission to determine how intelligence was misused and how controversial and possibly illegal activities like torture were authorised within the executive branch,” she said.

“I think the American people want it. I think they want to know how we got to this place.”

President Barack Obama has been cool towards the idea of a truth commission, which White House officials fear could expose secrets and hamper the work of the intelligence agencies.

Senator John McCain yesterday welcomed Mr Obama’s decision to oppose the release of photographs showing prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan by US military personnel.

“We are still in a war,” Mr McCain said. “The publication of those photographs would have given help to the enemy in the psychological side of the war we are in. I applaud the president’s decision.”

The Wall Street Journalreported yesterday that the Obama administration is considering the indefinite detention in the US without trial of prisoners currently held at Guantánamo Bay. Mr Obama has promised to close Guantanamo by next January, but the administration has yet to decide what to do with up to 100 detainees who cannot be sent home or settled in third countries.

Republican senator Lindsay Graham, who has discussed the future of Guantánamo detainees with White House counsel Greg Craig, said among the proposals being discussed was seeking authority for indefinite detention from some form of national security court.