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Release the Memos


Weeks ago, House Intelligence Ranking Republican Pete Hoekstra (R, Mich.) requested the release of memos detailing the information that the CIA gave about waterboarding in Congressional briefings. He wanted this in order to clear up what Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, Calif.) knew about waterboarding and when she knew it.

Later, Pelosi — who claims she was lied to by the CIA in September 2002 and specifically told that waterboarding had not been used — said publicly that she, too, wanted the memos released. She wanted to prove she was telling the truth.

So who is bluffing? Here is how Hoekstra put it when I asked him: “I’ve sent two letters to the CIA to get them released. The real question someone ought to ask [of Pelosi] is if she has sent any letters or made any phone calls to get them released.”

If Pelosi seems less credible than the CIA, it might be because she has done a poor job of keeping her story straight. Here is what she said yesterday about the February 2003 briefing, which her staffer Michael Sheehy attended, during her press conference (a complete transcript of which is here):

My staff person told me that there had been a briefing — informing that there had been a briefing and that a letter had been sent. I was not briefed on what was in that briefing; I was just informed that the briefing had taken place.

She appeared to suggest that he could not tell her because they were not in a secure location,  which fails to satisfy as a long term explanation, anyway. But then, moments later, Pelosi said that Sheehy had told her about what was in the briefing:

QUESTION: … Sheehy did not tell you that the — he was informed that they were actually using the techniques?

PELOSI: No, he did say that. He said that the — the committee chair and ranking member and appropriate staff had been briefed that these techniques were now being used. They — that’s all I was informed, that they were being used and that a letter was sent.

Did Sheehy give her a partial briefing? Were the details about this torture, to which Pelosi supposedly strongly objected, just too unimportant for a full briefing from her staff? Hoekstra said that if Pelosi wasn’t briefed, it could only be because “she didn’t care enough” to make the short trip to the “secure space” where such things can be discussed. If she was briefed, why did she every suggest that she wasn’t?

It is also worth noting that the letter Pelosi references, which was sent by Rep. Jane Harman (D, Calif.), objected only to the destruction of a videotape, and registered no direct objections to waterboarding as a form of torture.