Bipartisan Complicity

Yesterday, Rick Klein of ABC News announced that “a report prepared by the Director of National Intelligence’s office and obtained by ABC News” showed that the CIA did brief Nancy Pelosi and other select members of the House Intelligence Committee on the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT). Pelosi says she and other House members were only told that the White House had legal opinions that would allow them to use such techniques, not that they were being used or would be used.

Greg Sargent obtained a copy of the same document, and it does not support a key accusation being made on the right:

… Folks on the right have been saying that the story proves Pelosi has been lying about what she knew about waterboarding and when.

But I have a copy of the documents, and a PDF of them is  right here. They don’t prove the “lying about waterboarding” charge by any means.

The docs do show that according to the CIA, Pelosi was given a “description” of some of the enhanced interrogation techniques that had been used on Abu Zubaida.

But the documents are inconclusive on a key charge being made by Republicans — that she had been told of the use of waterboarding, one of the harshest and most controversial torture techniques.

There’s another problem with the CIA document — the CIA itself won’t vouch for its accuracy:

Republicans are pointing to the documents — which were produced by the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence, and sent to select members of Congress — to charge that Pelosi and other Dems have been lying about what they knew about waterboarding and when.

But the docs were accompanied by a letter from CIA chief Leon Panetta that appears to suggest the CIA can’t promise that the info is right. The letter was sent along with the documents to GOP Rep Pete Hoekstra, a leading critic of Dems on torture, and Dem Rep Silvestre Reyes, the chairman of the intelligence committee.

I’ve obtained the letter, and a PDF is right here. …

Marcy Wheeler points out that ABC News did not bother to include the letter, or any mention of it, in their article. (It’s there now, added as the last paragraph in a long update at the end of the original article.)

All of this is not to argue that Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in Congress did everything they could to protest the CIA’s torture program, or to end it. Clearly, they could have done much more. Josh Marshall puts it very aptly (h/t Steve Hynd):

There’s a lively debate today about which if any Democrats knew about various torture practices on a relatively contemporaneous basis. And we’re going to have reporting today from TPMmuckraker about what certain documents do or don’t mean. Speaking for myself though I’d be very surprised if the key Democrats at the time weren’t briefed on a lot of this stuff. And to the extent that they didn’t know the details, that it might have been not wanting to know rather than having been kept in the dark.

If it turns out that the Democrats in leadership were really kept wholly in the dark about this stuff, that’d be nice to know, I guess. I’d like to think they’re not compromised. But expecting or hoping for that strikes me as a recipe for disappointment and eventual special pleading in their defense.

To me, though, this is precisely why we need some version of a Truth Commission, probably one that at least on first blush is not about assigning blame or recommending punishment but simply finding out, in as disinterested a manner as possible, just what happened and who knew and okayed it.

I just think we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t see that many, many people — even a lot of the “good guys” were and are compromised by what happened.

Steve adds:

… [If] Pelosi and others knew details that made it obvious torture was being carried out – and they probably did – I would have no mercy in my heart for them. They would be complicit accessories, just as guilty by their silence as those who ordered, carried out or wrote legalistic mumbo-jumbo justifying these criminal acts.

Josh calls for a Truth Commission, “probably one that at least on first blush is not about assigning blame or recommending punishment but simply finding out, in as disinterested a manner as possible, just what happened and who knew and okayed it”. But that crimes were committed is clear. A prosecutor is what’s needed and let the chips (and bipartisan indictments) fall where they may.

Having said all of this, bipartisan complicity is one reason why Republican cries of “political motivations” behind calls for an investigation into war crimes ring so hollow. Everything that happened in the last eight years was politically motivated, on both sides. The fact that, as Steve notes, the Republicans who leaked the briefing document to ABC News did not include the accompanying letter in which Leon Panetta disclaims responsibility for the document’s accuracy shows that Republicans’ motives are no purer than Democrats’.

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