Pelosi Says She Was 'Never Briefed' on Waterboarding

By Fred Lucas | April 23, 2009 | 7:06 PM EDT

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

Capitol Hill ( – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she has “always” supported an investigation into the interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration for use on terror suspects. Further, in rebuttal to several Republicans who said members from both parties of Congress were briefed on the interrogation techniques, Pelosi said she was "never briefed" on the technique of “waterboarding.”
“We were not told of waterboarding or any other enhanced interrogation methods used,” Pelosi told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference.

Waterboarding was an interrogation technique that the CIA used on only three top al Qaeda detainees and only after the Justice Department had issued opinion stating that it was legal for the CIA to use the procedure. The three terrorists subjected to the technique includded Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9/11attacks.  The technique involved putting a clothe over the subjects face and pouring water on to the clothe for no more than 40 seconds.  This reportedly induced a sensation of drowing, while not causing lasting physical or psychological harm.
Pelosi repeated that the Bush administration “flat out never briefed us on waterboarding,” adding that, “any contention that we did know is not true.”

President Barack Obama this week seemed to leave the door open to investigating former Bush administration officials who provided legal opinions allowing methods such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, wall slamming and confinement in a small room.
When asked on Tuesday whether there would be an investigation, Obama said: “That is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws and I don’t want to prejudge that.”
On Thursday, Pelosi said the question on her mind has not been whether to have an investigation, or “truth commission,” as some congressional Democrats have proposed. Rather, she said the question is what level of immunity will be offered to how many people.
“I have always been for a truth commission,” Pelosi said. “I don't think we should grant an immunity bath.”
However, leading Republicans this week insisted that members of the intelligence committees and congressional leaders were briefed on the interrogation techniques.
“It is the responsibility of the executive branch to inform the committee,” Pelosi said. “They didn’t come to consult. They came to notify.”
On Dec. 9, 2007, The Washington Post reported the following: “In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk. 

“Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.”
Last week, the Obama administration released four previously classified memos from the Bush administration's Justice Department  that discussed the legal rules for use of the interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.
One of the memos provided details of how waterboarding of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad apparently helped prevent a terror attack on Los Angeles. (See Previous Story.)
Another of the released memos said that waterboarding and the other interrogation techniques used on terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay were also used on some U.S. soldiers during their training. (See Previous Story.)
“These are not glory days for our country,” Pelosi said of the interrogations.