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House Speaker Defends Position on Knowledge of Interrogation


House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has again strongly defended her account of what she was told about interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists. We report on the latest remarks by Pelosi and minority Republicans on the interrogation controversy.

What members of Congress from both major political parties knew about so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, and when they knew it, has become a key element in the controversy over the Bush administration's use of harsh methods to obtain information from terrorist suspects.

Minority Republicans cite briefings members of Congress received in the year or so after the September 2001, al-Qaida terrorist attacks, asserting that Pelosi and other key Democrats were informed if not supportive of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

Pelosi read a lengthy prepared statement at her weekly briefing, noting again that in 2002, while ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, she and three other lawmakers were briefed about interrogation methods.

However she again asserted that she was not told waterboarding was being used at the time on terrorist suspects, although officials mentioned that Justice Department lawyers under the Bush administration had concluded it would be legal to do so:

"The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed," said Nancy Pelosi. "Those conducting the briefing promised to inform the appropriate members of Congress if that technique was to be used in the future."

Pelosi says confirmation for her that waterboarding was being used came five months later in 2003, in another briefing for the then Republican chairman and new ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, after which Pelosi says Democrats sent a letter to the CIA raising concerns.

The core of the matter now, Pelosi adds, is that the CIA as well as the Bush administration mis-led Congress, about interrogation tactics and about justifications for going to war in Iraq:

"Whether it is on the subject of what [was] happening in Iraq, whether it was talking about the techniques used by the intelligence community on those they [were] interrogating, every step of the way the administration was misleading the Congress and that is the issue," she said.

Pelosi's comments came after the CIA made notes taken by officials who briefed lawmakers on interrogation methods available to Congress.

A CIA spokesman said on Thursday Congress will have to determine whether notes made by CIA personnel in those briefings were accurate.

Pelosi called Republican criticisms of her on the interrogation issue a "diversionary tactic", and reiterated her support for the idea of a "truth commission" to investigate Bush administration interrogation policy.

House Republican leader John Boehner fired back saying it would be hard to imagine that anyone in the intelligence community would mis-lead Congress.

Accusing Democrats of trying to launch a "politically motivated investigation" into the intelligence community, Boehner said Pelosi's latest remarks have not cleared up questions:

"I think the problem is that the Speaker has had way too many stories on this issue, and as I said earlier I think she has posed more questions than she has provided answers," said John Boehner.

Boehner and other Republicans have also been calling for the Obama administration to order the release of documents, also sought by former Vice President Dick Cheney, they assert would provide evidence that harsh interrogations of al-Qaida operatives yielded valuable counter-terrorism information.

A former FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan, told a Senate panel this week that waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation" techniques did not provide actionable intelligence.


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