- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday questioned the accuracy of an intelligence memo that appeared to conflict with her previous statements that she was not told of waterboarding at a classified briefing she attended in 2002 on CIA interrogation techniques.

The California Democrat is at the center of an intensifying debate on Capitol Hill over the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, which critics condemn as torture. Defenders of the practices argue in part that Mrs. Pelosi and others in Congress were told at the time of the techniques and made no move to stop them.

A Director of National Intelligence memo released late Thursday said that Mrs. Pelosi was at a classified briefing in September 2002 in which the waterboarding of al Qaeda terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah was discussed in detail.

Mrs. Pelosi Friday stuck to her denial.

“As reported in the press, a cover letter from CIA Director [Leon E.] Panetta accompanying the briefings memo released this week concedes that the descriptions provided by the CIA may not be accurate,” she said in a statement.

She did not address previous comments she made that put her at odds with the report, but noted that the September 2002 briefing was one of 40 given to lawmakers.

Mrs. Pelosi said she was told some enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, were thought by the Bush administration to be legal and could be used in the future.

The DNI report’s summary of the agenda of the September 2002 briefing reads: “Briefing on [enhanced interrogation techniques] including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed.”

“Some Democrats seem to have conveniently dis-remembered this briefing,” said Missouri Sen. Christopher S. Bond, ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee.

Mrs. Pelosi is one of several Democrats in Congress who support a so-called truth commission to investigate the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war on terror, including the use of harsh techniques which President Obama himself has deemed torture.

Most of the calls for an investigation have centered on former Bush officials, with no mention of members of Congress who were told about the techniques in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but raised no objections.

But at a Thursday Senate hearing, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. did not rule out investigating lawmakers when pressed by Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.

“What about members of Congress who were informed of [EITs] or know about them or approved them or encouraged them? Wouldn’t they also be appropriate parts of such an investigation?” asked Mr. Alexander.

Mr. Holder cited a current Justice Department inquiry looking at the role of the attorneys who signed off on the techniques.

“It deals, I suspect, not only with the attorneys, but people that they interacted with, so I think we will gain some insights by reviewing that report. … My responsibility is to enforce the laws of this nation and to the extent that we see violations of those laws, we will take the appropriate action,” he said.

Democrats pushing for the truth commission claim it is essential to what they see as restoring the country’s tarnished reputation abroad.

But Republicans fear that punishing Bush administration lawyers for their legal opinions would have a chilling effect in the fight against terrorism and amount to the criminalization of policy and legal disagreements.

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