Pelosi Says She Was Informed About CIA Using Enhanced Interrogation Techniques in Feb. 2003

By Staff Writer | May 15, 2009 | 3:39 PM EDT

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

( – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) revealed on Thursday that she was informed by her aide in February 2003 about the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, against some captured al Qaeda terrorist leaders.  In April of this year, Pelosi said she had never been briefed that the CIA was using the enhanced techniques, only that there were legal opinions in the Bush administration justifying their use.
Below are the statements Pelosi made at a press conference on Apr. 23, 2009, about what she knew of the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, and what she said on May 14, 2009, about the same issue. (The complete May 14 press conference, in video, is posted below and here.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on April 23, 2009: “… At that or any other briefing, and that was the only briefing [on Sept. 4, 2002] that I was briefed in that regard, we were not – I repeat, we were not – told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.  What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel – the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would. And they further – further, the point was that if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time ….
“… My experience was that they did not tell us they were using that [enhanced interrogation techniques]. Flat out. And any – any contention to the contrary is simply not true. … And so, you know – flat out – they never briefed us that this was happening. In fact, they said they would if and when they did.”

Reporter: “[A Senate Intelligence Committee filing, released on Apr. 22, 2009] does pretty specifically talk about the fact that Abu Zubaydah, they started using these techniques, including waterboarding in 2002 and continued doing it in 2003 and 2004.”
Pelosi: “I was not briefed on that. … They didn’t tell us that. They may have briefed us on something, but they did not brief us to that effect.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on May 14, 2009: “The CIA briefed me only once on enhanced interrogation techniques, in September 2002, in my capacity as ranking member of the Intelligence Committee. I was informed then that the Department of Justice opinions had concluded that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques were legal. The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed. Those conducting the briefing promised to inform the appropriate members of Congress if that technique were to be used in the future. …
“Five months later, in February 2003, a member of my staff informed me that the Republican chairman and the Democratic ranking member of the Intelligence Committee had been briefed about the use of certain techniques which had been the subject of earlier legal opinions. Following that briefing, a letter raising concerns was sent to CIA General Counsel Scott Mueller by the new Democratic ranking member of the committee, the appropriate person to register a protest. …”

Reporter: “You say that Mr. [Michael] Sheedy did tell you – your staff did tell you –”
Pelosi: “He informed me that the briefing [on Feb. 5, 2003] had taken place. We were not in a place where he could – that was all that he was required to do. …”

Reporter: “Mr. Sheehy did not tell you that he was informed that they were actually using the techniques?”
Pelosi: “No, he did say that. He said that the committee chair and ranking member and appropriate staff had been briefed that these techniques were now being used. That’s all I was informed, that they were being used and that a letter was sent. And that is a complete – but my responsibility is different. I’m no longer the ranking member. Appropriately, the ranking member sent the letter.”

Reporter: “Okay, the question is, at the end of April [2009] you had the press conference with us. And you said very clearly we were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.”
Pelosi: “That’s right. I meant ‘we,’ we in that – in that – in that meeting [on Sept. 4, 2002].”
Reporter: “Okay, okay. So –“
Pelosi: “In the briefing that I received [on Sept. 4, 2002], we were told that – in fact, we were told that waterboarding was not being used, because that’s sort of one that stood out.”
Reporter: “So in that press conference we were all clearly trying to get at the broader question of whether you knew about waterboarding at all. And the idea that we got from you was that you were never told that waterboarding was being used. But now we know that later, in February, you were told. It wasn’t in that briefing, but you were told. So –“
Pelosi: “No, by the time we were told, we were finding out that it’s been used before. You know, in other words, that was beyond the point.”
Reporter: “So why didn’t you tell – but why didn’t you tell us at that April press conference –”
Pelosi: “And I told you what my briefing was. My briefing was –”

Pelosi: “No, but the point is – is that I wasn’t briefed. I was informed that someone else had been briefed about it. I’m only speaking from my – I don’t have to stand here [behind podium] – (laughs) – I’ve got this [clip-on microphone]. I’m only speaking from my own experience, and we were told that it [waterboarding] was not being used. Subsequently, the other members of the committee were informed.”
Reporter:  “And so were you.”
Pelosi: “No, I wasn’t informed. I was informed that a briefing had taken place. Now, you have to look at what they briefed those members. I was not briefed that. I was only informed that they were briefed, but I did not get the briefing.”
The entire May 14, 2009 press conference is posted below: