Pelosi- When the view gets cloudy

Nancy Pelosi, shown Thursday, said yesterday that her criticism of the Bush administration is separate from her "respect" for the CIA. (By Lauren Victoria Burke, Associated Press)

Nancy Pelosi, shown Thursday, said yesterday that her criticism of the Bush administration is separate from her "respect" for the CIA. (By Lauren Victoria Burke, Associated Press)

House  Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t the first politician who seems to have lost contact with reality. She’s just the latest who’s view of reality has been clouded by political expediency.

Pelosi claims the CIA misled her about harsh interrogation techniques six years ago when she was a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Those techniques qualify as torture based on International Red Cross and , the third convention of the Geneva Convention.

Those torture techniques also put knock us down to the same gutter level as terrorists and further encourage them to attack us.

Pelosi claims she wasn’t told waterboarding had been used to interrogate terror suspects until an aide informed her after other lawmakers had been briefed by the CIA in 2003.

Now Republicans and members of Pelosi’s own party say she’s:

  • a. dishonest
  • b.  confused
  • c. forgetful
  • d. all of the above

The CIA said Pelosi, as a ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, received a Sept. 4, 2002, “briefing on EITs” and their use with al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded.

Pelosi claims the CIA’s timeline is wrong, but the head of the CIA is defending his agency. Leon Panetta, a Democrat, pushed back last week  in a letter to CIA staff. Panetta wrote that the agency’s response to congressional inquiries about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah were truthful. “Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened,” he said in the letter.

Former GOP House Intelligence Committee Chairman-turned-Bush CIA chief Porter Goss has also added his views. Goss wrote a piece for the Washington Post claiming Pelosi and others “understood what the CIA was doing” and “gave the CIA our bipartisan support.”

The nonpartisan Web site,, has given Pelosi an unambiguous “false” rating on its Truth-O-Meter, with the explanation:

“At PolitiFact, we normally would be reluctant to make a Truth-O-Meter ruling in a he-said, she-said situation, but in this case, the evidence goes beyond the competing accounts from Pelosi and Goss. We are persuaded by the CIA time line, which the agency says is based on “an extensive review of (the CIA’s) electronic and hardcopy files.”

The dispute over Pelosi’s knowledge of the interrogation techniques leaves politicians in both parties pointing fingers of blame.

What nobody’s done is take responsibility. Isn’t that a cornerstone of every great democracy?

President Barack Obama has strongly resisted calls for the creation of a truth commission, something Pelosi has vocally supported. Such a panel, Obama has said, would devolve into partisan finger-pointing. I think we’ve already arrived at that destination.

I believe we need a commission to investigate alleged abuses of the Bush administration. It should not include politicians. It could include qualified investigators selected by a bi-partisan committe of politicians.

Why have a commission investigate?

James O. Goldsborough, former foreign correspondent for The New York Herald Tribune said it best:

“One of the lessons of the Nuremberg Nazi Trials was that when human rights crimes are committed the chain of responsibility goes to the top. Officials willing to inflict torture and lawyers ready to find legal justification for it do not issue the orders. They are collaborators and collectively guilty just as were Hitler’s so-called “willing executioners,” but responsibility starts at the top.

We have had torture used against us in war, and in fact waterboarding was prohibited by the U.S. military precisely because the Japanese used it against us in World War II.”

Sure, there are those who claim that given a necessary choice between evils, the right choice is the lesser evil. Thus, this logic goes, that information obtained via torture saves lives.

That logic is refuted by the interrogators themselves. AsGoldsborough has pointed out:

“Ali Soufan, one of Zubaydah’s FBI interrogators, says everything learned from Zubaydah was learned before the CIA took over and the torture began. Col. Steven Kleinman, former Air Force intelligence officer, told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “To think that one can use physicality or heavy stress to obtain useful, reliable information is not backed up by operational experience and is not backed up by one shred of scientific evidence.”

Portions of this posting used news items and information  from the New York Times and TheWashington Post.

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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