Nancy Pelosi: CIA Lies to Everyone, Duh!

Speaker Nancy Pelosi essentially said today that she is the victim of a CIA information operation directed against the constitutional leadership of the United States. So what else is new?

At a news conference in which she appeared—as she always does, every time she speaks—to be lying, Pelosi said that the CIA briefed her in February 2002 about waterboarding and other torture techniques being contemplated by the CIA, but was specifically told that waterboarding was not being used. In fact, by that time, Zubaydah had already been waterboarded 83 times.

The press conference is part of Pelosi's pushback against Republican attacks that she and other Democrats knew that the CIA was waterboarding Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed while it was happening and stayed silent, only to look aghast at the practice now. They've been citing a CIA timeline [pdf] of congressional briefings on the torture program that lists Pelosi's February 2002 briefing and says it included the "use of [torture] on Zubaydah and a description of the particular...techniques that had been employed."

Pelosi adamantly insisted that while the CIA told her that it thought waterboarding was legal, her briefers said it was not being employed. She found out several months later, through a staffer, that then-intelligence committee ranking member Jane Harman was told about the waterboarding and wrote a letter to the CIA questioning its legality. The recent release of the CIA's briefing timeline, Pelosi said, was a "diversionary tactic to take the spotlight off of those who conceived and developed and implemented these policies."

In other words, the CIA lied to me in 2002, and they're lying to you now. Pelosi's acknowledgement that she had learned second-hand of Harman's briefing on waterboarding in February 2003 only narrowly jibes with her previous statement that "we were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used." It depends on who "we" is—if she was talking about the congressional leadership, then she gets a pass. If she's talking about any members of Congress at all, including Harman—who was prevented by classification laws from sharing the information with any other members—then she was lying and knew it.

Either way, her statement today practically ensures, as Talking Points Memo points out, that some sort of truth commission or robust congressional investigation will get to the bottom of it. Pelosi supports a commission, and Obama opposes one. The fact that she's just dug in her heels and accused the CIA—both its Bush-era incarnation and the current one—of lying strengthens her position. It will be tough and messy for Obama to leave this to Congress to sort out.