Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Going Back to the Poisoned Well

House Republicans, hoping to put Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) back on defense, are weighing whether to take another run at a resolution calling for an investigation into her allegations that the CIA lied to Congress about its use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

As Hilzoy notes, this is crazy. The US public doesn't consider this an important issue and would be irritated at Republicans for wasting Congress's time if they heard of the efforts.

The icing on the cake is the fact that Pelosi's version of the briefing is strongly supported by the evidence. I conclude that Republican Congresspersons don't read Emptywheel, the only serious source for news on the subject (accepting donations here).

I don't expect them to agree with Marcy Wheeler, but they should understand what they would face if they got their investigation. They seem to assume that if the Democrats don't want something then it must be good for them (zero sum deliberation). Thus anything that interferes with the functioning of congress is appealing to Republicans (look at the Senate what else do they do). Something which is bad either for the Democratic speaker or the central intelligence agency of the Democratic administration is good for them. The worse things are the better they are.

Here I think they really don't know the facts. My guess is that it is because they are sure the facts don't matter and that all the public will hear is "Opinions on Shape of Earth Differ." I think it is risky to assume that facts don't matter. They do tend to come out in the end.

The facts in this case seem totally clear to me.

Pelosi claims that she wasn't told that the CIA had actually used the waterboard. Porter Goss, who was at the same briefing, made a claim that is perfectly consistent with Pelosi's. He said it was clear that the techniques "were to be used" which one wouldn't normally say if it was also clear that they had been used. When asked to elaborate, a spokesman refused to go beyond the carefully worded claim (OK that is due to Greg Sargent not Marcy Wheeler).

When the Biby memo became public, Alberto Gonzales said that it was just legal theory and not a description of policy as implemented. This was a bold faced lie. Pelosi is essentially claiming that the CIA briefer gave a similar line. Plausible given the analogy, but different because lying to congress is a crime.

Over at the senate, Bob Graham and a Republican congressional aid (who can be identified due to an honest error by the reporter trying to protect his anonymity) say that Graham was not told about water boarding. Richard Shelby managed to contest this claim on the second try (recall he was thrown off the committee for improper handling of classified material). He is the only person on the legislative side who says anything which casts any doubt on Pelosi's version.

On the other side we have CIA records which are plainly full of errors. They are, at best, notes written down after the briefings. They included 4 briefings of Graham 3 of which the CIA now agrees never occurred (the 4th, according to Graham was about the Iraq NIE). According to the CIA, the CIA briefed Congressman Porter Goss at a time when Goss was no longer a congressman but uhm director of the CIA. According to CIA written records, the CIA doesn't know who is the director of the CIA. Many people have accused the CIA of total rank incompetence, but I think no one imagined they were that incompetent.

Have the Republicans not considered the possibility that the Democrats don't want an investigation which will show our adversaries that our CIA is totally incompetent ? Out here in the rest of the world, the CIA has a fairly fearsome reputation. News junkies know it is a paper tiger. We really don't want to inform people considering Jihad of that fact.

Now many Republicans consider the CIA the enemy (along with State and the Democratic party and the ACLU oh and don't forget al Qaeda (again)). I almost wonder if some are pretending to gun for Pelosi as part of the AEI vs CIA grudge match.

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