Friday, May 15, 2009

Would the CIA mislead? Never!

Nancy Pelosi's accusations that the CIA misled her in 2002 when she was briefed on the possible use of harsh interrogation techniques in connection with the war in Afghanistan has raised eyebrows among right-wing commentators and politicians:

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's accusation that the CIA misled her and others about waterboarding a massive attack on the nation's intelligence community.

Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri on Friday contradicted Pelosi's claim and called her criticism a tragedy. Bond said in a "Today" show interview that he reviewed the CIA's material and it was clear that she had been informed about the enhanced interrogation method.

However, Bond said he was not with Pelosi when the spy agency briefed her.

Now, I can't know for sure what Pelosi was or was not told in 2002, however, the notion that it's inconceivable that the CIA might dissemble when it comes the Bush Administration's torture policies is quite laughable. Have we already forgotten the lengths to which the CIA went to destroy evidence of their misdeeds?

According to a letter filed by the government in court today, the CIA acknowledged it destroyed 92 tapes of interrogations. The admission comes in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking records of the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of prisoners in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all the requested records. That motion is still pending.

The following can be attributed to Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU:

"This letter provides further evidence for holding the CIA in contempt of court. The large number of videotapes destroyed confirms that the agency engaged in a systemic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations and to evade the court's order. Our contempt motion has been pending in court for over a year now – it is time to hold the CIA accountable for its flagrant disregard for the rule of law."

All in all, though, this rush to Demonize Nancy Pelosi is rather disturbing. The press and right-wing is having a field day with the story of what Pelosi knew and when she might have known it. And yet, at most Pelosi is guilty of knowing that torture was taking place in CIA detention facilities and not speaking out against it. Meanwhile the perpetrators of that torture, and the high ranking officials who authorized and ordered it have not been investigated or prosecuted for their crimes. Does it not make sense that one would go after the central figures before focusing on the periphery?

Republicans are enjoying a brief moment in the sun, sitting back an watching the Speaker of the House roast for a few days. I suspect they've made tactical mistake in pushing this story, though. Attacking Pelosi for whatever role she may have played in the torture scandal merely shines more light on it. That alone makes it far more likely that the American people will dmand clarity and the sort of accountability that could find more than a few top Bush administrations in hot water (I'm talking about you Dick Cheney).

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