ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today accused intelligence officials of giving her “inaccurate and incomplete information” on the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics by the Bush administration, saying that CIA officials are guilty of “misleading the Congress of the United States.”
In her first public comments on the matter since an intelligence report contradicted her recollections, Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters today that she was never told about the fact that waterboarding had been used on a terrorist suspect, even though terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded a month before she was briefed on the subject in Sept. 2002.
“The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed,” Pelosi said, reading from a prepared statement. “Those briefing me in Sept. 2002 gave me inaccurate and incomplete information.”
“At the same time, the Bush administration was misleading the American people about the threats of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” she added. “The CIA was misleading the Congress. At the same time, the administration was misleading the Congress on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
Pelosi dismissed suggestions that she was in any way complicit in the Bush administration’s policies, just because she and others in Congress were briefed on the subject along the way. She asserted that Congress was powerless to stop the administration.
“This is a policy that was conceived and implemented by the Bush administration,” the speaker said. “Throughout my career, I have been proud to work for human rights and against torture around the world. . . . I unequivocally oppose the use of torture by our government, because it is contrary to our values.”
Pelosi expressed an openness to further congressional inquiries into what members of Congress were told about the interrogation tactics, and repeated her call for a “truth commission” to probe the matter. She also accused Republicans of playing political games over what she knew and when she knew it.
“This is a diversionary tactic, to take the spotlight off of those who conceived, developed, and implemented these policies, which all of us [Democratic leaders] opposed,” she said. “Understand -- this is their policy, all of them.”
Questions surrounding Pelosi’s knowledge of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” have been a recurring distraction for Democrats in recent weeks.
Last week, intelligence officials sent a report to Capitol Hill outlining a Sept. 4, 2002 briefing where Pelosi and the then-chairman of the House intelligence committee, Porter Goss, are described as having been given “a description of the particular EITs that had been employed” on terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah.
But Pelosi has maintained that she was never briefed on waterboarding or any other enhanced techniques actually being used, just that the Bush administration believed it had legal justifications to employ them.
Republicans have pounced on the contradictions.
“This has been the disingenuousness that has been going on, and frankly the politicization of our national security,” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said today in an interview with WLS radio in Chicago.
“It has been like a constant drumbeat over the last several years on the part of Speaker Pelosi that somehow our interrogators, the Bush administration, and the lawyers at the Justice Department were engaged in criminal activity -- when now it comes to light that she knew and was briefed on what was going on, and in fact has been reported that she was pressing the CIA to do even more," Cantor added.