- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 23, 2009

In her first news conference since accusing the CIA of lying to her about the use of harsh interrogation techniques, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday refused to answer questions on the controversy, telling reporters only that she stands by her earlier statements.

Flanked by fellow House Democratic leaders, Mrs. Pelosi spent 23 minutes at a pre-recess press briefing recounting the party’s accomplishments so far this year, took just five minutes of questions, and declared out-of-bounds any inquiries on her confrontation with the CIA.

“I have made the statement that I’m going to make on this,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “What we are doing is staying on our course and not getting distracted from it.”

The highly anticipated news briefing came amid Republican calls to investigate Mrs. Pelosi’s assertion that the CIA mislead her when she was briefed in September 2002 about so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding, which the Obama administration has deemed torture.

House GOP leaders have demanded that she back up her claim or apologize to the intelligence agency, but Democrats voted down a resolution Thursday that would have created a special panel to investigate her charges.

Mrs. Pelosi last week said the CIA lied to her in 2002 by concealing that it had already used enhanced interrogation techniques, and said the agency continues to lie today by mischaracterizing the briefing. She also said the CIA lied in the run-up to the Iraq war.

“They mislead us all the time,” she said.

On Friday, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta wrote a memo to his employees defending them and calling for the rhetoric attacking his agency to be toned down.

Mrs. Pelosi issued her own statement afterward saying her accusations were directed at the Bush administration, not at the employees of the CIA.

Some Republicans, including Rep. Steve King of Iowa and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have called for Mrs. Pelosi to resign as speaker.

Mr. King said he would introduce a resolution when Congress returns calling for Mrs. Pelosi’s security clearance to be revoked.

Congress is on a weeklong break next week and Mrs. Pelosi appears to be hoping that scrutiny of her charges will fade as other news - including the global warming debate and a potential Supreme Court nomination announcement - changes the focus in Washington.

At her news conference Friday she and her fellow Democratic leaders went into detail on the upcoming global warming fight and other bills the House has passed this year, but did not address Mrs. Pelosi’s CIA charges until a reporter asked her about them.

Mrs. Pelosi flatly refused to say anything more about her charges.

“I won’t have anything more to say about it. Another subject?” she responded.

Republicans were not as willing to let the subject drop.

In a statement, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio accused Mrs. Pelosi of “stonewalling.”

“She has had more than a week to produce evidence supporting her allegation that the CIA deliberately lied to Congress and does so ‘all the time.’ She still has not done so, and House Democrats are now stonewalling a bipartisan investigation to determine the facts,” Mr. Boehner said.

“Claiming that the CIA engaged in a pattern of deception without either backing it up with evidence or retracting her statement and apologizing is an affront to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country,” he added.

Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Mrs. Pelosi was becoming a political liability to her party.

“Her obsession with the previous administration and her disdain for America’s intelligence officials have reduced her to cheerleader status within the far left wing of her party and a distraction to the substantive debate over how to best move our economy forward,” Mr. Spain said.

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