Under pressure to explain conflicting stories, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that in 2003 she was told waterboarding and other tough tactics were being used on suspected terrorists and did not object to them, even as she defiantly accused the CIA of lying to her and Congress about the use of such controversial techniques during 2002 briefings.
The CIA, in an unusually curt response, defended its account that showed Mrs. Pelosi was briefed about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding in a Sept. 4, 2002, meeting.
Pelosi was a placeholder who only became Speaker by virtue of seniority and being next in line after the Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives and surrendered the gavel. It is now unlikely that her credibility issues will go away anytime soon.
Pelosi is not out of the woods. She could have saved herself some trouble by admitting earlier that she had been informed that the CIA was using waterboarding. By doing what she did yesterday, she has assured that she will remain a central character in the political fight that is raging. But whether by design or accident, she also succeeded in enlarging a controversy that is no longer a sideshow.If Congress is intent on going forward with a so-called Truth Commission on enhanced interrogation techniques, how long will it be before Pelosi decides to "spend more time with her family"?
Update: In a memo to employees posted on the agency's website, CIA Director Leon Panetta (also a California Democrat who served with Pelosi in the House of Representatives) said "Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values." Click here for the full statement.