Why Didn't Pelosi Act?

Speaker Pelosi claims that the CIA lied to her about its handling of terrorist detainees held by the United States. She claims not to have been informed about the methods being used to get information from prisoners. Obviously, this is almost certainly false. Why would the CIA have informed other lawmakers about interrogation methods, but not Pelosi?

But even if we take her at her word, another problem arises. Pelosi does not dispute that she learned about waterboarding no later than early 2003, when her intelligence staff attended a CIA briefing where it was discussed. Since she learned about waterboarding no less than 6 years ago, she had ample opportunity to register objections without disclosing any secrets to the public. That’s because the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence – on which Pelosi served as the senior Democrat in 2002 – conducts closed hearings on sensitive topics, to hear testimony from intelligence community officials. Further, House rules specify a procedure by which Representatives can force a debate on sensitive intelligence matters in a closed session. The most recent such session was in 2008; if Pelosi was so concerned about ‘torture,’ why did she not attempt to force a closed session to discuss it? And why did she not raise it during closed hearings of the Intelligence Committee with CIA officials? (Check out the House rules governing the Intelligence Committee here, starting on page 14.)

Furthermore, Pelosi voted for the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004. Did she attempt to amend the bill to address interrogation? Representatives Cox, Harman, Lee, Kucinich, and Hastings are recorded as offering amendments. Why did Pelosi not offer her own?

The next year, Pelosi voted for the 2005 Intelligence Authorization. Dennis Kucinich offered an amendment to force a probe of Iraq-Al Qaeda links; at least 9 other amendment were considered as well. Where is Ms. Pelosi’s amendment?

The point here is that it doesn’t even matter if the CIA lied to Pelosi. Even if Pelosi were telling the truth about what she knew and when she knew it, she’s still lying about her ability to address the issue. Any Member of Congress has multiple ways to approach a sensitive intelligence matter without risking public disclosure. Other Members of Congress have done so. If Pelosi was really worried that the U.S. was mistreating prisoners, she could have – and should have – dome something about it. The fact that she did not demonstrates clearly that this is all about politics – not national security.