House GOP Leader Challenges Pelosi to Provide Justice with Evidence CIA Lied to Her

By Matt Cover | June 4, 2009 | 9:13 PM EDT

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (AP Photo)

( - House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) yesterday challenged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) to provide the Justice Department with any evidence she has to prove her claim that officials of the Central Intelligence Agency committed the crime of lying to Congress.

Pelosi’s press spokesman, meanwhile, told it was not a legitimate question to ask him if Pelosi intended to make a criminal referral of the matter to the Justice Department.

At a Thursday press conference, asked Boehner: “Do you think that, if she has the evidence--and she’s made the claim--do you think she should go ahead and refer the names of those [CIA] case officers to the Justice Department?”

Boehner answered:  “I think the ball’s in the Speaker’s court. I think she needs to bring forward evidence to back up her claim, and turn that over to the Justice Department, as I said when this issue first came up some three weeks ago.”

When asked by whether the speaker had referred the case to the Justice Department for prosecution or planned to do so, Pelosi’s spokesman declined to answer. Instead, he simply said that the CIA’s briefings of Pelosi were “classified” but that she wanted the information released.

The spokesman, Nedeam Elshami, did not say whether Speaker Pelosi had contacted the Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department to investigate the matter. Elshami also said that whether Pelosi would refer the case for investigation was not a legitimate question.

“If you have a legitimate question, I’d be happy to answer it, but you don’t have a legitimate question,” said  Elshami.

On May 14, at a Capitol Hill press conference, Pelosi was asked whether the CIA had lied to her in a September 2002 briefing about the use of waterboarding (simulated drowning) as an interrogation technique. Pelosi said, “Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States. 

When asked at the same press conference about the CIA’s actions, Pelosi said, “They mislead us all the time. … Yeah, they did. They misrepresented every step of the way.”

The day after Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading Congress, CIA Director Leon Panetta, an Obama appointee, issued a statement to all CIA employees that contradicted the House speaker.

“Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress,” said Panetta. “That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed.’”

“We are an Agency of high integrity, professionalism, and dedication,” said Panetta. “Our task is to tell it like it is—even if that’s not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it.”

Any member of Congress can formally request the Justice Department to investigate a criminal matter, including whether someone lied to Congress. For example, Congress formally asked the Justice Department to investigate whether pitcher Roger Clemens had not told the truth during testimony about his alleged use of steroids.
Lying to Congress is a felony, punishable by up to eight years in prison if the matter relates to terrorism. Title 18, Section 1001 of Federal Law states:

“Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.”