- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

Republican leaders pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to release details of her conversations with CIA officials on interrogation techniques while Democrats continued to play down the issue on Sunday’s talk shows.

Mrs. Pelosi boldly accused CIA officials last week of lying to her when they briefed her in 2002 about interrogation tactics being used on terror suspect Abu Zubaydah. CIA Director Leon E. Panetta, a fellow California Democrat, fired back last week in a letter to CIA employees saying that their agency does not lie or mislead public officials.

The scuffle over what the CIA told Mrs. Pelosi - and when - has since gripped national politics, with Republican leaders noting that Mrs. Pelosi did not criticize the CIA procedures that she and other Democrats now paint as torture when she learned of them in her 2002 CIA briefings, while Democrats try to shift focus to other topics.

“It’s not that big a deal,” said Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat. “In terms of where the country is right now, where we need to go, there are a lot of issues of accountability in terms of looking back as to the conduct of the past administration in a number of areas.”

But Republican Party chairman Michael S. Steele relished Mrs. Pelosi taking center stage in the national debate over interrogation techniques.

“I think the reality here is that Nancy Pelosi has stepped in it big time,” Mr. Steele said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “The question for me is does the president support Nancy Pelosi’s versions of what happened or his CIA director’s version of what happened?”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs last week avoided questions of who was right - Mrs. Pelosi or Mr. Panetta - by saying the president preferred to “look forward.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican who appeared in bipartisan political commercials with Mrs. Pelosi last year, told ABC News that the House should investigate whether she lied.

Other Republican leaders were more measured in their assessments, though.

“Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If the speaker is accusing the CIA and other intelligence officials of lying or misleading the Congress, then she should come forward with evidence and turn that over to the Justice Department so they can be prosecuted.”

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