House Members Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

The Washington Post has a disturbing revelation:

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

Who were they? [More...]

The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Porter Goss says,

"Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing....And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

An Administration official says:

The attitude was, 'We don't care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.' "

As to how these four were chosen,

U.S. law requires the CIA to inform Congress of covert activities and allows the briefings to be limited in certain highly sensitive cases to a "Gang of Eight," including the four top congressional leaders of both parties as well as the four senior intelligence committee members. In this case, most briefings about detainee programs were limited to the "Gang of Four," the top Republican and Democrat on the two committees. A few staff members were permitted to attend some of the briefings.

It wasn't until 2006 that the CIA briefed the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the enhanced interrogation program.

The CIA has now admitted using waterboarding on three detainees held in overseas prisons. The Post says one remains unidentifed and the other two are Khalid Sheik Mohammad and Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein Abu Zubaida. I assume Abu Zubaida is the person identified yesterday in the New York Times as Abu Zubaydah. (More analysis here.)

WaPo quotes Bob Graham as saying they were unaware of the use of waterboarding. As to Pelosi, who wouldn't comment directly,

[A] source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.

Jane Harman says she did protest.

Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the committee's top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program. Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA's program because of strict rules of secrecy.

"When you serve on intelligence committee you sign a second oath -- one of secrecy," she said. "I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything."

Worth re-reading: Jane Mayer's New Yorker article, The Black Sites, which describes the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others. She also mentions Majid Khan, whom I wrote about yesterday (his lawsuit is pending):

The utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America’s national security. The Justice Department argued this point explicitly last November, in the case of a Baltimore-area resident named Majid Khan, who was held for more than three years by the C.I.A. Khan, the government said, had to be prohibited from access to a lawyer specifically because he might describe the “alternative interrogation methods” that the agency had used when questioning him. These methods amounted to a state secret, the government argued, and disclosure of them could “reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage.” (The case has not yet been decided.)
< Should Judges Be Lawyers? | Mrs. Huckabee >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Arthur Silber was right! (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by JHFarr on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 11:09:43 AM EST
    The interesting thing, however, is that so far this morning, most of the blogosphere still hasn't awakened to the reality of having been made complete fools of by the Democratic party.

    This should be a watershed moment, Pull-the-plug City, whatever. I've had about three dozen of them myself this year already, so I'm already off the reservation. Just wish I didn't feel so alone, dammit.

    Briefed and Abetted (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by katiekat489 on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 12:02:39 PM EST
    The most despicable and deplorable congress ever.And yes I mean the Dems--I feel more betrayed by them and am glad have not given one dime to these pitiful excuses for lead.Pelosi et al need to go- even at that time they had a resposibilty to do the right thing.

    Who will protect us now? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Packratt on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 02:07:58 PM EST
    To me, as a person who has experienced prisoner abuse, it's a pretty dark day. When republicans and democrats in DC don't see anything wrong with abusing prisoners and when local politicians of both stripes locally (at least in Seattle) don't have a problem abusing prisoners. I don't see much hope for those of us who have been subjected to that abuse of ever finding justice or stopping abuse.

    Today it truly seems that nobody cares. The very party that was believed to understand the need to protect the civil rights of all people has shown that it doesn't.

    Now what?

    The real, predominant (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by jondee on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 02:48:18 PM EST
    religion in the U.S is Manichaeism. It has a ritual, expiatory function on a deep psychological level for the non-reflective who find the endevor to investigate to the actual causes of events more painful than the sting of death itself. The favorite word of these people is "deserve"..they deserve, he/she deserves.. Trained torturers and interrogators, sadistic prison guards, Eichmanesque beaureucrats all serve the function of avenging angels who "keep us safe"; Dr. Death's Thin Blue Line etc

    True (none / 0) (#14)
    by Packratt on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 04:29:19 AM EST
    ..and it's the hardest hurdle I have to overcome even with my friends who know what I went through.

    Even posted about a conversation I had over dinner with friends the other day where one said she was upset over her tax dollars going to dietary choices for jail prisoners...

    I had to remind her that I was one of those prisoners.


    Idols, feets of clay and (1.00 / 0) (#15)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 07:00:12 AM EST
    all of that.

    Guess they voted for the war before they decided it was PC to ve against it..

    Nothing like leaders with convictions, eh??

    "9/11 changed everything" (none / 0) (#3)
    by jondee on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 12:35:47 PM EST
    Or, didnt change anything.

    Someone remind me, please, about all those members of the house who raised holy Hell over the U.S's training of Latin American torturers and nun-rapers; took a strong public stand for civilisation and decency when info about what the "Tiger Squads" in Vietnam had been doing came out..

    With a handful of noteworthy exceptions, "the opposition" and "voice of dissent" in congress has had a longstanding tradition of stuanch support for the MIC status quo and it's modus operandi. Why should things be any different now?

    I don't believe (none / 0) (#5)
    by RalphB on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 02:18:48 PM EST
    squat that comes out of this administration nor Porter Goss.  The administration has proved time and again that it lies with absolutely no problems.

    Why are democrats so willing to believe the administration on this account?  Especially when Bob Graham is denying being told about it.

    Are we all being spun into turning on our own by Bush's gang again?

    Yeah.... (none / 0) (#6)
    by Edger on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 02:47:50 PM EST
    The Democratic Leadership in Congress is different from rethugs. Anyone who says they aren't is crazy...

    Ummm ... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Sailor on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 03:10:47 PM EST
    ... is Jeralyn relying on the truthfulness of bushco's leaks of classified info to the WaPo!?


    Looks like Jane Harman validated it.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by Edger on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 03:43:01 PM EST
    Pelosi (none / 0) (#9)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 03:12:52 PM EST

    Pelosi has been reported as one of those briefed.  Her story should well worth hearing.

    How can we make sure this a hit piece? (none / 0) (#11)
    by ctrenta on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 08:29:04 PM EST

    The story sounded like GOP stenongrahphy but more importantly... can somebody prove to me this is legit???

    How can we makes sure this ISN'T a hit piece n/t (none / 0) (#12)
    by ctrenta on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 08:29:54 PM EST

    That's what the subject line should've said.

    WSWS: Both parties supported torture program (none / 0) (#13)
    by Andreas on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 02:19:31 AM EST
    The WSWS writes today:

    Pelosi declined to respond in the Post article, but a "congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position" told the newspaper that Pelosi recalled discussion of the techniques, but said they were still in the planning stage at the time. The source "acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time."

    According to a December 8 article in the New York Times, congressional leaders were informed of the existence of the videotapes in February 2003, and were also informed of the intention of the CIA to destroy them. Harman is now claiming that she urged the CIA not to destroy the tapes, but there was no attempt to inform the American people.

    These revelations show that the Democratic Party leadership knew of the CIA's torture program and approved of it. Only when the CIA program was leaked in 2005 did Democrats feel obliged to posture as opponents of these practices.

    Since winning control of both houses of Congress in the November 2006 elections, the Democratic Party has held no serious hearings and done nothing to investigate the Bush administration's policy of torture.

    More revelations concerning CIA destruction of torture tapes
    Both parties supported US interrogation program

    By Joe Kay, 10 December 2007

    So... (none / 0) (#16)
    by Packratt on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 03:03:27 PM EST
    Anyone doing anything for Human Rights Day?

    I suggest sending a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to each of these individuals.

    That's what I'm doing, in addition to dedicating my blogs to it.