Who attended 'torture' briefings? A GOP lawmaker wants to know.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra seeks full disclosure about who on Capitol Hill knew about US interrogation methods – a move that may put certain Democrats on the spot.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that she had been briefed on enhanced interrogation but was not aware at the time that waterboarding, or simulated drowning, was being practiced. Speaking broadly about classified briefings she had received as the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, Ms. Pelosi said lawmakers could not disclose such material, even if they wanted to.Skip to next paragraph
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“When you are briefed on something, it isn't your information to share with anybody else,” Pelosi said at a roundtable organized by The Christian Science Monitor on April 22. “Whether they are briefing you on legal opinions or they're briefing you on actions they are taking, you have no ability to share that information with anybody else. Even if I wanted to share, I would not have had the liberty to share,” she said.
A too-quiet protest?
But a former CIA director and a one-time chair of the House intelligence panel challenges that account of events. In an op-ed in The Washington Post on Saturday, retired Rep. Porter Goss (R) of Florida wrote that lawmakers briefed about waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques "gave the CIA our bipartisan support."
"I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed 'memorandums for the record' suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately – to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president's national security adviser – and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted. And shifted they have," he added.
Moreover, critics say, members of Congress who were in the know had options they did not pursue.
“It’s a revealing argument in that it sheds light on the mind-set of congressional leaders,” says Steve Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington. “They feel at a disadvantage and comparatively powerless. Are they in fact powerless? Arguably, the answer is no. They have tools at their disposal that they have not used.”
He adds: “Those [tools] include use of funding restrictions as leverage to gain more information, to increase oversight, or, in extreme cases, to terminate dubious or illegal operations. None of those steps were taken with waterboarding.”
Human rights advocates echo his sentiment.
“I’m not sure that, even with more authority, Congress would have done more,” says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a human rights group that advocates for the rights of Guantánamo detainees. “They did not take full advantage of the authority they had.”