Pelosi Claims CIA Deceived Her on Waterboarding

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When it comes to waterboarding, the question now surrounding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is what did she know and when did she know it. Today, Pelosi claimed what she knew, at least at first, was a lie.

[T]he House’s top Democrat, speaking at a news conference in the Capitol, was unequivocal about a CIA briefing she received in the fall of 2002.

“We were told that waterboarding was not being used,” the speaker said. “That’s the only mention, that they were not using it. And we now know that earlier they were.” She suggested the CIA release the briefing material.

The CIA denies the agency ever deceived lawmakers.

So we now have a “he said/she said” situation and most of the official records are classified. What the CIA has released is a chart listing discussions with congressional members:

The chart specifically notes a discussion of waterboarding in 13 briefings between February 2003 and March 2009, most attended by Democrats as well as Republicans. Two Democrats, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and former Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, have challenged the accuracy of some of the CIA’s chart.

However, the whole “what she knew and when she knew it” question really misses the point. The right question is: could Pelosi and the Democrats have done more the stop the technique many consider torture? Or was winning control of Congress and the Presidency the only way to effectively halt the use of waterboarding?

Just because Pelosi knew about harsh integration techniques doesn’t mean she approved. Then again, if waterboarding is as morally unacceptable as Pelosi has claimed it is, shouldn’t she have been a lot more vocal a lot earlier?