Remember all the drama during the Mukasey hearings last month and how there was so much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact he wouldn’t come out and declare waterboarding to be torture? Well, today there’s some information from 2002 that might help to explain why the top Democrats didn’t filibuster and why it appeared to many they had caved. From the Washington Post this morning:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
“The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,” said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.
Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism effort. The CIA last week admitted that videotape of an interrogation of one of the waterboarded detainees was destroyed in 2005 against the advice of Justice Department and White House officials, provoking allegations that its actions were illegal and the destruction was a coverup.
Yet long before “waterboarding” entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.
With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).
Only after information about the practice began to leak in news accounts in 2005 — by which time the CIA had already abandoned waterboarding — did doubts about its legality among individual lawmakers evolve into more widespread dissent. The opposition reached a boiling point this past October, when Democratic lawmakers condemned the practice during Michael B. Mukasey’s confirmation hearings for attorney general.
So Pelosi, Harman, and other Democrats were fully aware of what techniques were to be used, and yet only Harman officially objected:
Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the committee’s top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program.
The wails from the moonbat community are already rising. Some examples: From Lambert at Corrente:
Well, I guess now I know why impeachment was “off the table.” Anybody for Barney Frank as the new speaker?
Glenn Greenwald: Democratic complicity in Bush’s torture regimen
You get the idea. There’s much more at memeorandum.
As I said during the Mukasey fracas, it appears that Democratic leaders really don’t agree with the moonbats on what constitutes torture and didn’t believe a vote for Mukasey was a vote for it. Oh, just one more reaction that’s just precious from John Avarosis at Americablog:
Did Bush approve CIA leak to embarrass Pelosi?