This week's column is a defense of Nancy Pelosi ... which is kind of another way of saying that the column is dedicated to bashing the Bush administration. The latter, coincidentally, is Blumñata's primary literary muse, at least over the past 10 years or so.
But we start with the recent dust-up between Speaker Pelosi and the CIA:
The CIA lies to Congress, at least it has many times in the past. We know it, and so do Republicans in Congress. Which is why all this faux patriotic indignation over the suggestion that the CIA misled Congress in briefings over detainee treatment is just raw political theater.Is it?
George Tenet was running the CIA when the controversial briefings took place. Tenet was appointed by President Clinton and retained at his post by President Bush. Whom does the CIA serve? The president? Congress? Itself?
The indignation is not really over the suggestion that the CIA has misled Congress at various times. The indignation comes because Pelosi is alleging that the current CIA (under Obama) is currently misleading us when it contradicts Pelosi. And that, in turn, is important because what Pelosi knew and when she knew it is important if people are serious about prosecuting those who supported, protected and enabled enhanced interrogation methods employed during the Bush administration.
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and other congressional Republicans are relishing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's tiff with the CIA regarding what she knew about waterboarding and when she knew it. Now they want an investigation — a ploy to keep the issue in the news, no doubt.Given that we have two outcomes more likely than any other--either the Speaker of the House is telling a public whopper of a lie or the CIA is telling one of its own--why not? If either is true, isn't it important? Why would Blumner want that out of the news? Why not get behind Boehner on this one?
Pelosi says that she was misled by the CIA in a secret September 2002 briefing by not being told that detainees had already been subjected to waterboarding. The CIA counters with notes of the meeting that say she was informed that such techniques "had been employed."Small potatos, here. The real issue is where Pelosi and the CIA agree: She was told that the administration had found enhanced interrogation methods legal. Pelosi registered no objection from her position of oversight. What did she think was the purpose of the briefing? Why tell Pelosi anything if she has no role in oversight?
But let's play along with Blumñata for now.
In the prior month a CIA detainee had been waterboarded 83 times.Probably not. Though CIA documents report that 83 "sessions" were administered to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mohammed's own recollections for that time limit the number to five. That is a big difference, and the solution to the discrepancy probably rests in the definitions of terms.
And it is a side issue, after all. Back to the Blumñata narrative:
While it is possible that Pelosi is conveniently not recalling properly, I think it is more likely that the CIA has it wrong, and the agency soft-pedaled to Congress what it was doing to prisoners.And an editorial columnist is conveniently accorded the privilege of expressing opinion even in the midst of a newspaper that supposedly adheres to the objective standard of journalism.
What is her evidence? Most of it is essentially irrelevant. The CIA has, at various times in the past, intentionally give false information about its activities. On the other hand, members of Congress also frequently lie through their teeth, so I call that one a wash.
Unfortunately for Blumñata, that takes care of the bulk of her defense of Pelosi.
But we still have this:
(O)n the detainee issue specifically, the Washington Post reported in 2006 that Mary McCarthy, a former CIA deputy inspector general, was convinced that the CIA had lied in multiple congressional briefings about detainee treatment by failing to disclose the abuses or denying them outright.Mary McCarthy. That former CIA deputy inspector general who was apparently dismissed for leaking classified information to the press? And who, according to the Washington Post story in question, made her alleged allegations through anonymous sources?
The reader may be interested in the fact that the St. Petersburg Times has a policy against reporting news based on anonymous sources. Blumñata just sidestepped that ethical barrier with a nifty head fake.
And now she sees herself behind the defensive backfield and approaching the goal line:
Ultimately, Pelosi vs. CIA is a sideshow to divert attention from the real issue, which is that our intelligence agency engaged in a pattern of torture and abuse of prisoners. Who knew about the abuse, when and who approved it are important questions, but they need to be posed to all the principals involved, including the former president and vice president.Flag on the play.
The dispute between Pelosi and the CIA reveals exactly why neither the Democratic majority in Congress nor the Democratic administration under President Obama will pursue the investigation Blumñata wants: They know they won't be able to avoid sharing the blame. We can probably best measure Blumñata's realization of this via successive visits from Halley's Comet.
But it will be fun to watch her stew over the next four years while it doesn't happen, most likely blaming it on the relatively powerless Republicans.
When that is the kind of investigation Republican leaders want to launch, they'll finally be putting country before politics.See what I mean? The Democrats don't need any help from the Republicans to launch a full investigation. President Obama can order one through the Department of Justice. The Democratic-controlled Congress can steamroll the tiny opposition and start up an investigation any time they like.
Squirm, Blumñata, squirm.