GOP's torture strategy: Pelosi
For Democrats pushing an investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing in the war on terrorism, the GOP now has a two-word response: Nancy Pelosi.
Republicans say new revelations about a CIA briefing Pelosi received in 2002 have given them their best shot yet at blocking a sprawling probe into Bush administration interrogation techniques by allowing them to insist that its targets would include the speaker of the House.
“If someone is going to schedule hearings, I believe that the first witness should be Nancy Pelosi,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking member on the House intelligence committee, told POLITICO. “Clearly, she was involved in policy formulation.”
According to records released last week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Pelosi and other congressional officials were told in 2002 that enhanced interrogation techniques had been used on terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah. The report appeared to contradict Pelosi’s claims — made earlier and again after the report was released — that she had been told only that such techniques might be used in the future, not that they had already been used.
According to a 2005 Justice Department memo released this year by the Obama administration, Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times by the time Pelosi was briefed in 2002.
In light of the intelligence report, Republicans say that any probe into torture should be broadened to include what Pelosi knew and how much influence she had in shaping the Bush administration’s controversial policies.
The GOP’s goal, according to congressional Republicans, is to dissuade Democrats from pursuing an inquiry that could lead to the prosecution of Bush administration officials by making it clear to Democrats that Pelosi and other lawmakers would have to testify, too.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview that if Pelosi failed to object to the techniques at the time, she was “an enabler” and “an accomplice” if any crimes were committed. If an investigation goes forward, King said, Pelosi should be forced to divulge what she knew.
In a statement Friday, Pelosi said she had been advised at the 2002 briefing about techniques the Bush administration was “considering using in the future” — and that she’d been assured they were legal. Pelosi also pointed to a letter from CIA Director Leon Panetta saying that the memo’s description of the briefings “may not be accurate.”
Still, Republicans believe they now have Pelosi caught in a jam: To satisfy her liberal base, she’s got to keep pressing for an investigation into potential crimes by the Bush administration. But if Republicans can score points with the “what did she know and when did she know it?” question, Pelosi also may have an interest in putting this issue aside.
“I’ll be very curious to see how she deals with it,” said a senior House GOP aide. “Does she stop talking about it and piss off her left?”
Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for the speaker, said Saturday that Republicans are “trying to politicize intelligence with irresponsible actions” and that Pelosi still supports an inquiry into the use of the interrogation techniques. The House and Senate intelligence committees have launched internal reviews, but it’s unclear whether they will expand beyond classified inquiries.