HARSH INTERROGATION….The sources for this story are so obviously intent on discrediting congressional Democrats that it’s hard to know whether to take it at face value, but the Washington Post reports today that Democratic leaders in the House and Senate were fully briefed about the CIA’s “harsh” interrogation methods beginning shortly after 9/11 and — with the exception of Jane Harman — issued no protests:
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.
….Long before “waterboarding” entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.
With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).
….”In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic,” said one U.S. official present during the early briefings. “But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.’ “
The Post reports a variety of reactions from the six congressional leaders who knew about the CIA program:
“Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” said Goss.
Graham said he has no memory of ever being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics.
A congressional source familiar with Pelosi’s position on the matter said the California lawmaker did recall discussions about enhanced interrogation. The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage — they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice — and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.
Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the committee’s top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program.
Roberts declined to comment on his participation in the briefings.
Rockefeller also declined to talk about the briefings.
Bottom line: it looks like they all knew about it (Graham’s denial is unconvincing given that Harman, Pelosi, and Goss all admit they were briefed and Harman even wrote a formal letter of protest), and it looks like most of them didn’t have a problem with it. Another great day for the Republic.
But: good for Jane Harman. You may think that congressional leaders ought to jeopardize their careers and risk jail in order to publicly protest stuff like this, but, sadly, in the real world that’s not in the cards. Whatever else you can say, it appears that Harman did a helluva lot more about this than anyone else.