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Nancy Pelosi vs. the CIA

The House Speaker accuses the CIA of lying, in an escalating battle over detainee torture

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just “upped the ante,” said Jay Newton-Small in Time, “in the high-stakes spat over who knew what (and when)” about the Bush-era use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Pelosi, who backs a torture truth commission, called the CIA “a bald-faced liar” for saying it told her in September 2002 that it was waterboarding prisoners. This “storm” could drown her, her party’s agenda, and/or the CIA.

My money is on the CIA winning this one, said Ed Morrissey in Hot Air. Pelosi just “dared the CIA to leak” its detailed briefing notes from September 2002—assuming they’re not lost, “they’ll be hitting a newstand within a few days.” Besides, her story has “a couple of problems,” including the fact that her memories conflict with those of colleagues who attended the same or similar CIA briefings in that period.

“Before you get too harsh on Pelosi,” said John Cole in Balloon Juice, let’s look at what her colleagues said. GOP Sen. Richard Shelby’s story is “very similar” to Pelosi’s, and—worse for the CIA—ex-Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) says the CIA’s notes are wrong about at least two briefings it claims he attended. Graham is famous for obsessively keeping a “journal of EVERYTHING he has done for the past 50 years.”

Even if Nancy Pelosi's story is true, and she didn’t know about the torture until early 2003, said Tom Head in About.com, she should still step down as House speaker. The GOP is “understandably delighted” that it can now spread some of the blame to a Democrat. Even though Pelosi was not in a position to prevent the torture, she should have objected to its possible use.

Pelosi’s story is so twisted, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, that it earned “mockery even from Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.” (watch Stewart discuss Pelosi and torture on "The Daily Show") But we’ll give her a pass if she and her fellow Democrats drop this nonsense about prosecuting Bush officials for actions taken in the “horrific” aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

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