- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said the Bush administration “misled Congress” with inaccurate and incomplete information about harsh interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects and denied being briefed by the CIA about them.

“They mislead us all of the time,” she said. “They misrepresented every step of the way.”

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, has come under fire for criticizing the use of the techniques, despite recently released documents that show she was briefed about them by the CIA in September 2002.

She has become the center of the controversy about the techniques — including the simulated drowning method known as “waterboarding” — as the Democrat-controlled Congress attempts to use the documents to prosecute Bush administration lawyers and other officials over the approval of the methods.

The CIA said Thursday it has denied former Vice President Dick Cheney’s request to declassify secret internal government memos that detail whether valuable intelligence was gained from the use of harsh interrogation techniques under the Bush administration.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said Thursday that the request was turned down because the documents are the subject of pending litigation, which excludes it from declassification.

Republicans say the officials worked within the confines of the law and should not face criminal charges.

Of the several lawmakers who were briefed, Mrs. Pelosi is the highest-ranking. She has also received a great deal of attention for being an outspoken critic of Bush anti-terrorism policies.

Her initial claim that she was never told the United States was going to waterboard terrorism suspects was contradicted by a CIA timeline leaked last week. While she raised questions Thursday at a press conference about the CIA document, she did not directly dispute its account of her being informed about the use of harsh tactics on a suspect named Abu Zubaydah.

On Tuesday, the news organization Politico reported a Pelosi aide was briefed in 2003 that the CIA had waterboarded Zubaydah.

Mrs. Pelosi said Thursday the aide informed her in 2003 only that a briefing of a congressional intelligence committee had taken place and that the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jane Harman, California, was writing a letter.

“I wasn’t briefed,” she said. “I was informed that someone else was briefed.”

Mrs. Pelosi said she still supports a “truth commission” to fully investigate the issue and argued the 2002 briefing occurred while the Bush administration was misleading the public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

“Every step of the way the administration was misleading Congress, and that’s why we need a truth commission,” she said.

Mrs. Pelosi said none of the information she receive indicates she gave tacit approval to the administration’s so called “enhanced interrogation program.”

She also said she was unable to object because “she was bound by the requirements of secrecy” and that her only alternative was to change the balance of power in Washington.

“My job was to change the majority in Congress and to fight to have a new president,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “The didn’t tell us anything about what they were doing. And the was nothing we could anyway.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said Tuesday the revelations that Mrs. Pelosi knew about waterboarding have not undermined her credibility within the caucus.

Mr. Hoyer, a one-time Pelosi rival who would be next in line for speaker if she were to step down, described questions about what she knew and when she knew as “a distraction” from the bigger story of “what was done.”

“I don’t know a lot of people, including former members of the administration, who don’t believe what was done is not properly identified as torture,” he said. “I think the Republicans are simply trying to distract the American public with who knew what, when.”

A Director of National Intelligence report released last week, which described congressional briefings about the interrogation techniques, showed Mrs. Pelosi was briefed in September 2002 about the techniques, which also include sleep deprivation.

President Obama has denounced waterboarding as torture, which has become a centerpiece for criticizing the purported excesses of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism.

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