Pelosi's answer to the charge that she knew about torture

Below is a partial transcript of a press conference Pelosi gave a few days ago.

While there are some unverifiable factual claims here -- claims about the precise content of the briefing, for example -- it seems to me that Pelosi mounts a pretty strong defense to the charges. The story she tells is of a Congress trying to find ways to exercise oversight over an Administration that was committed to finding ways to evade oversight.

That's the world I remember living in.

Here's the text:
Q: "It does pretty specifically talk about the fact that Abu Zubaydah, they started using these tactics, including water boarding in 2002 and continued doing it in 2003 and 2004."

Pelosi: "I was not briefed on that."

Q: "And in the fall, 2002, after the use of interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah, CIA records indicate that the CIA briefed the chairman and vice chairman of the Committee on Intelligence."

Pelosi: "They didn't tell us that. They may have briefed us on something, but they did not brief us to that effect. They can say whatever they want, but the fact is they did not brief us in that regard.

"Now, people hear things and say, 'I would have concluded that they would have done that because the CIA, their business is deception.' And if Mr. Goss read something into it from his experience in the CIA, or what he learned later when he became Chair -- head of the CIA, that is something quite different than my experience, which is as a member of Congress I expect when somebody tells me something, they are telling me the truth."

Q: "Does this call into question the value of the briefing then, if they are not telling you fully?"

Pelosi: "I have questioned the values of the briefings over and over and over again. We only know what they choose to tell us and the manner and time in which they tell us. And that is why when people are talking about -- whether they are talking about torture, or whether they are talking about wiretapping, or whatever you are talking about -- we really have to have a change now in how Congress can do its oversight, because we expect and demand the truth.

"And that's why I, when I became speaker, established this joint committee between the Appropriations Committee and the Intelligence Committee, because the fact is they really were not fully briefing the Intelligence Committee. And they have to answer to the Appropriations Committee because that's where their funding comes from.

"It is a long story, it's an evolution. It used to be the Intelligence Committee -- you couldn't appropriate unless the Intelligence Committee authorized. It was almost effectively an appropriation. Over time the intelligence in the Bush years became part of supplementals so there was absolutely no sharing of information. They would just stick the request in the supplementals. We said, 'OK, if they are going right to Appropriations, we will have members of the Intelligence Committee serve in this hybrid committee, part Intelligence, part Appropriations.'

"But as we go forward, it is not just about torture. It's about how we collect intelligence to protect the American people. And that is a very serious responsibility of Congress to do the proper oversight and to work with the administration, whatever the party, in a very nonpolitical way to get this done."

Q: "At the time when you did receive these legal opinions, as you put them, did you raise any objections, legal, moral or otherwise?"

Pelosi: "That's not the point, Mike. The point is they come in to inform you of what they are doing. What my point was, are they doing this? No, they're not doing it. And then to leave there to see what recourse we had, which was none."

Q: "But certainly you had the right and even responsibility to."

Pelosi: "You would have to -- you would have -- same thing with wiretapping. This is what they're doing. That's all they do. They don't come in to consult. They come in to notify. They come in to notify. And you can't -- you can't change what they are doing unless you can act as a committee or as a class. You can't change what they are doing." |Source|

Adding: This WaPo article from December 2007, which is excellent and to be read, seems to be the primary source from which the Pelosi-was-complicit-in-torture charge draws most of its facts.

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