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December 09, 2007

Bipartisan brutality: Senior Dems also got sneak peak at waterboarding in 2002

Senior members of Congress, including Reps Nacy Pelosi (D-CA) and Jane Harman and Sens. Bob Graham (D-FL) and John D. Rockafeller (D-WV) were briefed about waterboarding as early as 2002, the Washinton Post reports.

Only one official dissent was launched in response to the 30 hours of CIA briefings on waterboarding and other forms of torture used against suspected terrorists, according to the story. One legislator asked whether the techniques were tough enough. (The story doesn't specify that official's party affiliation.)

Harman says she filed an official letter of protest that she was forbidden to air publicly because of secrecy laws. Graham claims he doesn't remember being told. Pelosi and Roberts declined to comment about the briefings.

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At least Beyerstein makes no attempts to justify this, unlike John Arovosis and Matt Stoller, who basically think Pelosi and the others deserve a pass on this because it was only 2 years after 9/11 and they were scared. Well, most it's because they are Democrats, and these people would have an internal meltdown if they ever had to admit that the Democratic party was as corrupt and immoral as they are.

It doesn't matter how scared people were, these were supposed to be our leaders. They are supposed to show leadership. This party has no leadership, and what's worse the democratic rank and file seem content with that.

This is of a piece with the previous post “Jose Rodriguez is Jack Bauer “. What is this crap? We’re repeatedly sold what’s billed as Democratic wine only to find Republican vinegar when the bottle’s uncorked. In 2000 I voted Democratic, choosing, I thought, not to waste a vote on Nader. I still believe we would not be neck deep in Dubya’s steaming shit if Nader’s Florida dreamers had had the hard-headed cynical sense to vote against Bush and had not indulged their utopian fantasies.

However the Democratic Party hasn’t, in my opinion, bothered to answer the faith of their voters in kind. We’ve got a crop of faux Republicans, treating us as clueless cuckolds. I understand that the American electorate is uniquely reactionary among developed nations; I understand that the current realities of campaign financing demand obsequious service to the vile fucks who control the dough, but what the hell is this shit? These cowards are so afraid to rock the boat that they’ve completely forgotten what their obligation to their constituents, their nation, and to basic human decency is? They’ve deliberately become Dubya’s house niggers. They should understand that my patience, my contributions, and my vote cannot be taken for granted.

Graham claims he doesn't remember being told.

So, is he lying? Or did the news that America was torturing people just not make that much of an impression on him? And which answer would be worse?

Its quite a system: buy up both parties and the media; set an artificial "consensus" and define any opinion outside of it as extremist, if not insane; drill into everyone's heads the absolute goodness and trustworthiness of the people in charge. If they could perfect this system worldwide, there wouldn't be any need for leaders to cancel elections anymore; we could all live in "freedom"!

The secrecy laws need to be reformed. Give them 60 in the senate, and 2/3rds in the house...then complain.

Linsday, both you and The Huffington Post are doing a diservice to us all by perpetuating and amplifying the false conclusions that can be drawn from a casual reading of this very misleading story from The Washington Post.
I read the original Post story this morning and it is either extremely poorly written or intentionally misleading. The article refers to many different meetings and briefings of various people at different times over many years covering different subject matter. The article also conflates " enhanced interrogation techniques" with waterboarding giving the impression that if someone was briefed on any "enhanced interrogation techniques" that they also must have known that that the CIA was actively using waterboarding.
You chose to emphasize this with your title "Bipartisan brutality: Senior Dems also got sneak peak at waterbording in 2002"
Please show me in the WaPo article where it says that any specific Democrat was told at a specific briefing in 2002 or any other year that the CIA was using waterboarding as an interrogation technique?
Your post title is bad but The Huffington Post with their "quick read" version of the original story is even worse.
Nothing in the original Post story justifies the conclusion that Democrats were aware of and approved of waterboarding by the CIA.

Even if a dem wanted to go public, they couldn't because of the secrecy laws.

cfrost said
"Graham claims he doesn't remember being told.
So, is he lying? Or did the news that America was torturing people just not make that much of an impression on him? And which answer would be worse?"
What you have created is,of course, a false dichotomy. A third possibility is that Graham is telling the truth and had never been briefed on waterboarding.
The original WaPo article doesn't even quote Graham, it paraphrases what he said.
From the Post article:
"Graham said he has no memory of ever being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics"
From this you draw the conclusion that Graham either is a liar or approves of torture.
How so?

I just noticed that it was Autumn Harvest and not cfrost that wrote the post I qouted and responded to. So, Autumn Harvest, how so?

"Please show me in the WaPo article where it says that any specific Democrat was told at a specific briefing in 2002 or any other year that the CIA was using waterboarding as an interrogation technique?"

WaPo:

"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."

buzz,
are you implying that if the democratic leadership had been told of waterboarding, they would have been up in arms and began the impeachment process immediately as their jobs require? as if the democrats passed on "enhanced interrogation" but would have drawn the line at "waterboarding"? how on earth did you reach this conclusion? "enhanced interrogation" is nothing more than a euphemism for torture to begin with.

on what evidence are you basing your assertion that the democratic leadership opposes government sanctioned torture? why do you continue to stand up for these murderous thiefs? shouldn't we be defending the thousands of muslims whose lives we've ruined instead?

Utica, you asking to prove a negative, a logical fallacy on it's face.

You all do realize that leaking classified info is a crime?


Yes, I missed it that the Post article said that Polosi was present at a briefing in 2002 at which waterboarding was among the techniques described according to "two officials present".
My point is that the content of the Post article does not support the conclusion being trumpeted that Democrats were aware that the CIA was using waterboarding and chose to remain silent about it.
The evidence presented against the Democrats in the Post story is:
1) Pelosi- Page 1 of the story:
was at a meeting in 2002 at which
"Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding"
Page 2 of the story:
"Pelosi declined to comment directly on her reaction to the classified briefings. But a congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter said the California lawmaker did recall discussions about enhanced interrogation. The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time."
Once again, the term "enhanced interrogation" has no specific definition and thus could mean many things. It may or may not include waterboarding or other torture.
The information given in the Post article does not convince me that Pelosi was aware of and condoned waterboarding that was being done by the CIA.
2) Jane Harman- Page 3 of the story
"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. Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter"
So she replaced Polosi in Jan 03 and filed a letter of protest to the CIA in Feb 03 (within 1 month).
Does this indicate that she condoned torture?
3) Bob Graham- Page 2 of the story
"Graham said he has no memory of ever being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics. "....
" "Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn't object," Graham said in an interview. "
So , if we assume he is lying he is guilty of condoning torture.
4)Rockefeller - page 2
" Graham left the Senate intelligence committee in January 2003, and was replaced by Rockefeller."
" Rockefeller also declined to talk about the briefings, but the West Virginia Democrat's public statements show him leading the push in 2005 for expanded congressional oversight and an investigation of CIA interrogation practices. "I proposed without success, both in committee and on the Senate floor, that the committee undertake an investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation activities," Rockefeller said in a statement Friday."
So, he got there in 2003, possibly after the waterboarding had been done. Nothing in the story says that he was briefed about waterboarding.
From this we deduce that he condones torture?

Buzz, what am I missing here? The story says that Nancy Pelosi and 3 other members of Congress were briefed at a specific meeting in 2002. By law, the Gang of 4 would have had to be notified about a CIA interrogation program that was ongoing--that's two Dems, and two Republicans.

The article also says that CIA Chief Michael Hayden claims to have fully debriefed Congressional overseers about the torture program. One assumes he debriefed them in a timely manner and not after the fact. Maybe he's the one who's lying.

I said in my post that 4 senior Democrats were briefed, as early as 2002. It's unclear who, besides specific Democrat Nancy Pelosi, was at the meeting mentioned in the lede:

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. [WaPo]

The article goes on to name the 4 Democrats served in the gang of 4 over the period that the program was in effect. The CIA only officially ran the program in 2002-2003.

Buzz, let me ask you something? Did the CIA brief you about waterboarding in sometime between September 2002 and January 2003? If not, I'd be very surprised if you said "Geez, I don't remember one way or the other."

Pelosi was briefed in 2002. Given that the program was ongoing, the incoming members of the Gang of 4 would have had to be briefed when they joined the team. The two Democrats who joined the gang of four in 2003 were: Rep. Harman and Sen. Rockafeller. Harman says she wrote a letter of protest in 2003.

Do the math. The program was ongoing in September 2002. About four months later, in January 2003, the committee assignments changed and two new Dems replaced Pelosi and Graham as their party's ranking members of their respective intel comittees. Pelosi's successor, Jane Harman, was able to lodge a letter of protest with the CIA within a month of joining the gang of four.

Explain this to me: Why would it be that the outgoing and incoming Dem leaders of the House intel committee were notified in a timely manner, but the outgoing member of the Senate committee wasn't told?

re: mudkitty
i'm asking for evidence to support the assertion that the democratic leadership opposes torture.
also, leaking classified info is indeed a crime, but the government commits a far greater crime every time it kidnaps a foreign national and proceeds to torture him, all without even a trace of probable cause (not to mention habeas corpus). defference to classification is a pretty nifty way to defend war crimes.

re: buzz
listen, i'm all for semantics, but the fact that the democratic congress hasn't budged on impeachment, when it's been blindingly obvious for many years that the white house has established a global regime of torture and secret prisons (still a crime, no?), shows their complicity quite clearly.
you've again mentioned "enhanced interrogation" and discussed how vague the term is. you present this as some sort of defence, though it might be worthwhile to wonder why a government would need such a vague term in the first place.

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>defference [sic] to classification is a pretty nifty way to defend war crimes.

Sure, in a way. But rule of law is rule of law. The answer to lawlessness is not more lawlessness.

>but the fact that the democratic congress hasn't budged on impeachment, when it's been blindingly obvious for many years that the white house has established a global regime of torture and secret prisons (still a crime, no?), shows their complicity quite clearly.

But, hey, comments like this are pretty far off the reality screen to start with, so ... yeah! nuke the Capitol with lasers! yeah!

Lindsay,
I just spent a long time composing a reply to the questions you put to me in your post at 5:56 PM.
Typepad has repeatedly not allowed my reply to be posted saying it has been flagged as potential spam.
Am I doing something wrong that would cause me to be flagged? It was a long post with lots of cutting and pasting. I've lost the comment now but I saved it into an email.
thanks
Buzz

Give them 60 in the senate, and 2/3rds in the house...then complain.

This excuse is just lame. The Republicans didn't have veto-proof majorities during the Clinton years, and they didn't continually whine about how that made it impossible for them to enact any of their agenda. The Republicans during Bush's presidency never had a fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and yet they were able to push through their partisan agenda and appoint their right-wing judges. But give the Democrats control of both houses of Congress, and put them against an incredibly unpopular president and. . . Oh no! Their majorities are not super-majorities! What can they be expected to do other than give the all-powerful president whatever he wants? Need Congressional approval of a massive illegal wiretapping program? Coming right up, sir! Hopefully we'll get some amnesty for your cronies with that. Would you like a pro-torture Attorney General with your funding for the war? We would like to put up some minimal pretense of being an opposition party, but that sounds really difficult, since we only have majorities in both houses of Congress.

And in this case, your defense is that because the program is secret, the only oversight that the legislative branch can be expected to exercise is to write a chastising letter? Well, fuck. If that's the entirety of their powers, we should just get rid of the pretense of legislative oversight, and have the president rule by decree.

Utica:

but the fact that the democratic congress hasn't budged on impeachment, when it's been blindingly obvious for many years that the white house has established a global regime of torture and secret prisons (still a crime, no?), shows their complicity quite clearly.

Dock:

But, hey, comments like this are pretty far off the reality screen to start with, so ... yeah! nuke the Capitol with lasers! yeah!

Yeah, Utica, you're just crazy. The Bush administration torturing people? Establishing secret prisons? And the Democratic Congress doing nothing to stop it? That's crazy talk! Where are you getting these paranoid fantasies from? That crazy New York Times? That lunatic rag, "Congressional roll call votes"? Quit looking at your silly stories about what Congress is actually doing, and join us on the, um, "reality screen," where the Democrats have in fact responded to revelations of Bush's illegal activities and torture with hearings, special prosecutors, and impeachment.

Buzz, when someone says that they don't remember being informed about torture (rather than saying that they were not informed), they themselves are saying that such vile practices don't make much of an impression on them. If I were to ask you if you've had sex with any farm animals lately, I assume your response would be "no, definitely not," rather than "I have no recollection of that."

i dont understand why anyone would defend pelosi on this, not if they are actual democrats and not trolls posing as democrats. It is against what democrats are supposed to stand for.

>Yeah, Utica, you're just crazy. The Bush administration torturing people? Establishing secret prisons? And the Democratic Congress doing nothing to stop it? That's crazy talk! Where are you getting these paranoid fantasies from? That crazy New York Times? That lunatic rag, "Congressional roll call votes"? Quit looking at your silly stories about what Congress is actually doing, and join us on the, um, "reality screen," where the Democrats have in fact responded to revelations of Bush's illegal activities and torture with hearings, special prosecutors, and impeachment.

Don't you worry about global warming? Hot air is hot air. Blabber is blabber. And yours gets a pure ho-hum rating. The farm animal crack is no fresher and a lot lamer than a pay-toilet-in-a-diarrhea-ward gag. Substance is all that matters. Get it through you chattering skull.

dock managed to avoid making any substantive response in his collection of lame ad hom attacks.

Buzz, I don't think you're doing anything wrong. TypePad eats comments from time to time. They adjust the sensitivity of their spam filter depending on what they're getting hit with on any given day. It happens more often if you comment more than once a day, or if you click the "post" button twice. Please try again later.

Lindsay,
Just so you know where I'm coming from I am basically a fan of your blog and a confirmed Liberal:
Well now Digby and Glenn Greenwald have joined the pile on.
As I've already said I thought that the original Post article was either very poorly written or intentionally misleading in the manner of the recent Obama Muslim rumour article. It is a jumbled mess of information,that purports to answer the question "What Democrat knew what and when?" and leaves the casual reader (even assuming that they read the whole article) with the impression that "the Democrats knew that the CIA was using torture and chose to say nothing"
This would make a fine story for Fox news but I expected better from the Washington Post.
You, the Huffington Post, and now Matthew Yglesias have all passed the story on with no critical review of the actual content of the story.
I've pretty much laid out my case in my post at 5:54 PM.
Before I believe that Congessional Democrats knew of and condoned illegal tortue by the CIA I would like to see some evidence of this. If they knew of and approved legal interrogation techniques then there is no story.
The information actually presented about Democrats in the story is:
1) Pelosi- may have been briefed about waterboarding at a meeting in 2002 before the program was activated according to "two officials present". Pelosi has not acknowledged that she was briefed about waterboarding or known illegal activity by the CIA.
Was Polosi briefed about waterboarding? I don't know.
Could the "two officials present" in the story be mistaken or lying? It's possible.
Could the reporters have made a mistake? It's possible
2) Harmon - came in in 03. Filed an official complaint with the CIA within 1 month of being appointed in 2003.
There is nothing in the WaPo article showing that she new of illegal CIA waterboarding. Has anyone seen her letter to the CIA?
3) Graham - said he was never made aware of waterboarding so he couldn't object. Either Graham is lying or the CIA did not in fact fully brief him as required by law.
I need some evidence before I would accept that Graham is lying.
4) Rockefellar- came in 03
There is no evidence in the article that he knew of ongoing illegal activity (waterboarding) by the CIA.

Lindsay, to respond to your 5:56 post:

LB says
"Buzz, what am I missing here? The story says that Nancy Pelosi and 3 other members of Congress were briefed at a specific meeting in 2002. By law, the Gang of 4 would have had to be notified about a CIA interrogation program that was ongoing--that's two Dems, and two Republicans."

Is it possible that the CIA did not fully comply with the law or complied in a way that did not reveal that they wanted to use the illegal method of torture known as waterboarding? Also, if there was a 2nd Democrat beside Pelosi at the 2002 meeting that included the " two officials present" was it Graham?

LB said
"The article also says that CIA Chief Michael Hayden claims to have fully debriefed Congressional overseers about the torture program. One assumes he debriefed them in a timely manner and not after the fact. Maybe he's the one who's lying."
The only mention in the WaPO story of Michael Hayden briefing Congress is in 2006. Also Hayden wasn't appointed to the CIA until 2006.
If the waterboarding/torture program was only in 2002-2003 as stated in the WaPo article then I wouldn't call that debriefing in a timely manner.

LB said:
"I said in my post that 4 senior Democrats were briefed, as early as 2002. It's unclear who, besides specific Democrat Nancy Pelosi, was at the meeting mentioned in the lede:"

Lindsay here is the title and first sentence of your blog post:

" Bipartisan brutality: Senior Dems also got sneak peak at waterbording in 2002
Senior members of Congress, including Reps Nacy Pelosi (D-CA) and Jane Harman and Sens. Bob Graham (D-FL) and John D. Rockafeller (D-WV) were briefed about waterboarding as early as 2002, the Washinton Post reports."

In reference to your title Lindsay, as I've pointed out previously, I do not see that the evidence contained in the WaPo article (the word of "two officials present") is convincing evidence that Senior Dems Polosi or unamed Democrat #2 (Graham?) were in fact told about waterboarding in 2002 . Maybe yes, maybe no. So far Graham has said No, and Polosi has not confirmed that waterboarding was included in the briefing that she has acknowedged receiving. This does not equal "bipartisan brutality"
My problem with your lead sentence is that it is misleading in that 2 of the 4 Democrats named were not yet in a position to be briefed on any of this in 2002. I know that you can technically argue to defend the "truthiness" of your lead sentence but it is, in fact misleading.

LB said:
"Buzz, let me ask you something? Did the CIA brief you about waterboarding in sometime between September 2002 and January 2003? If not, I'd be very surprised if you said "Geez, I don't remember one way or the other."
Pelosi was briefed in 2002. Given that the program was ongoing, the incoming members of the Gang of 4 would have had to be briefed when they joined the team. The two Democrats who joined the gang of four in 2003 were: Rep. Harman and Sen. Rockafeller. Harman says she wrote a letter of protest in 2003.

Do the math. The program was ongoing in September 2002. About four months later, in January 2003, the committee assignments changed and two new Dems replaced Pelosi and Graham as their party's ranking members of their respective intel comittees. Pelosi's successor, Jane Harman, was able to lodge a letter of protest with the CIA within a month of joining the gang of four.

Explain this to me: Why would it be that the outgoing and incoming Dem leaders of the House intel committee were notified in a timely manner, but the outgoing member of the Senate committee wasn't told?"

Lindsay, by all of the above I assume you are saying that you believe that Graham must be lying. If this is not what you mean please clarify.
Once again look at what is actually in the WaPo article:

1)"Graham said he has no memory of ever being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics. "....
2) "Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn't object," Graham said in an interview. "

The first quoted passage 1) from the WaPo article is not a direct quote of something said by Graham, it is a paraphrase supplied by the reporter. Who knows what the actual question and answer were? Are you taking this reporters paraphrase to mean that Graham was briefed on waterboarding and then when asked about would say something like;
"Geez, I don't remember one way or the other."
You are creating a fictitous quote for me (standing in for Graham) based on a reporters paraphrase.
The second quote from the WaPo article:
2) " "Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn't object," Graham said in an interview. "
is presented as a direct quote from Graham to the reporter.
Graham clearly states that he was not aware of waterboarding being done by the CIA. There is no attempt made or evidence presented in the WaPo article to contradict this quote from Graham.
Why do you believe he is lying?
Buzz

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