In her disastrous press conference yesterday, Nancy Pelosi finally confirmed that she was aware waterboarding was taking place as early as 2003, after her top intelligence aide Michael Sheehy attended a briefing with CIA officials where he was told as much. This contradicts her earlier, and highly dubious, claims that she didn’t know about waterboarding until the rest of us found out.
But Pelosi really made news with her accusation that the CIA lied to her in September of 2002, specifically disputing the claims of the Agency (and others) who said that Congressional leaders were briefed about the actual, and not just potential, use of enhanced interrogation techniques. We’ve known about these briefings for at least two years, but it was only yesterday, with the real possibility of a congressional “Truth Commission” taking shape, that Pelosi decided to accuse the CIA of “misleading” her. In 2007, for instance, the Washington Post described the content of that meeting this way: “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.” The Post further reported that “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.”
But let’s take Pelosi at her word. Let’s assume that in 2002, all the CIA told her was that “they had some legislative counsel — the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would,” as she put it last month. According to the people now calling for “war crimes” investigations against Bush administration lawyers, the mere writing of a legal memo that justified enhanced interrogation techniques itself constitutes a “war crime.” Put aside the question of whether the agents performing said techniques are themselves culpable, it’s the lawyers who argued for their legality who are the real “war criminals” and who should be disbarred, impeached, imprisoned, etc. By this logic, then, Pelosi being aware that such legal rationales had been provided by government officials (her claim), even if she wasn’t told waterboarding itself was taking place, would obviously make her complicit in the commissioning of war crimes since she did absolutely nothing about it.
I should state plainly here that I don’t believe Nancy Pelosi is a war criminal. But that’s because I also don’t believe John Yoo or Jay Bybee are war criminals for drafting legal opinions the Left disagrees with. Regardless, that Nancy Pelosi is complicit in the commissioning and cover-up of war crimes is the inescapable logic of the arguments being put forth by the mob calling for partisan witch-hunts. To maintain at least the guise of intellectual consistency, those calling for the heads of Yoo and Bybee should start calling for the Speaker’s as well.