Thursday, May 14, 2009

Torture Briefings: CIA's Case Won't Hold Water

Here are a couple of items of note regarding the CIA's claims that Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats were briefed about waterboarding and other forms of torture it used on terrorism suspects in 2002. Both are from FireDogLake, so I recommend following the links and having a look.

The first is from Gregg Levine:

In a just-completed Capitol Hill press conference, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said without equivocation that the CIA is lying when it implies that she was briefed in on the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. Pelosi stated that the CIA told her, in September 2002, that waterboarding was not among the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used on high value detainees. Reporting by Marcy—among others—now shows that the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah started at least a month earlier.

BREAKING: Pelosi Says the CIA is Lying

As I wrote the other day, there are many reasons to be suspicious of the CIA's story, not the least of which is that even if it's a completely honest effort, it's based on whatever notes and recollections CIA employees had that occurred several years ago. However, thanks to this next article, there's reason to suspect that this was less than an honest effort:

Bob Graham just appeared on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show. In addition to repeating earlier reports that he was never briefed on waterboarding, Graham revealed that the first time he asked the CIA when he was briefed on torture, it claimed it had briefed him on two dates when no briefing took place.

Senator Bob Graham: The CIA Made Up Two Briefing Sessions

As Marcy Wheeler relates, Graham went on to say that the way in which the CIA briefed Congressmen seemed designed to ensure that they couldn't discuss what they were told with each other. This is a plausible claim. People who are given classified information are not allowed to discuss it with those who weren't present at the time, unless they are cleared to do so by the agency that classified the information. In this case, that agency would be the CIA, of course.

The government's power to classify information, and its power to punish those who publicize it, carries with it a tremendous potential for abuse. This is starting to look like another case of the Bush Administration's misuse of these powers.

As if we didn't have enough already.

UPDATE (May 15): Marcy Wheeler notes that Sen. Graham has found a third briefing the CIA incorrectly said he received on torture. This one is particularly critical, as she notes:

I've got to correct something I said yesterday about Bob Graham. I reported that Graham said that CIA had given him two erroneous dates for briefings. That was wrong (RawStory reported the number correctly, though). They gave erroneous dates for three briefings.

The difference is critical, because it means the CIA tried to claim it had briefed Graham on torture in April 2002, which would have put it in compliance with the National Security Act. But Graham, by consulting his trusty notebooks, proved that claim to be false.

Graham also notes that the CIA is obligated to tell the entire intelligence committees, not just the leadership.

Graham: They Claimed to Have Briefed Before Torture, Did Not

Once again, the Bush Administration violated the law, then used their powers to classify information to cover up that fact.

As usual, the rest of the article is well worth a read. It includes an interview of Graham on MSNBC.

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