As we noted earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) statement yesterday about a briefing on CIA interrogation techniques left a couple things unclear. A Pelosi aide, responding to our queries, walked us through.
According to the aide, the briefing Pelosi received in September 2002 -- when she was the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee -- did not cover any interrogation techniques then in use by the CIA. Administration officials "said these were possible techniques they might use in future but [were] not being used yet," says the aide. The aide doesn't know "if the term 'waterboarding' was used" by the briefer.
No objection was raised at the time by Pelosi to what she was told were "possible techniques." But the aide is unsure if Pelosi left the briefing clear on what those possible techniques actually entailed: "Her briefing [was] not as extensive as the Post story implies."
Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) took Pelosi's spot on the committee in 2003. It was only then that the administration told the committee chiefs that the techniques listed in the 2002 briefing "were actually being used." Harman, and not Pelosi, was briefed at the time. "Harman objected, which Pelosi thought was the right thing to do and would have done if she had been ranker," the aide says. Pelosi, however, did not sign her name to a letter Harman sent to the CIA that Harman sent that February after receiving the briefing. Harman has asked the CIA to declassify the letter, which she has described as expressing concern over the interrogation techniques put into place and warning the CIA against destroying any interrogation recordings. "Harman told her she was sending it and Pelosi agreed with that decision," the Pelosi aide says.
"Pelosi and Harman [are] on same page on this," the aide adds, contradicting my earlier read on Pelosi's statement.
There remains a dispute about what exactly that September 2002 briefing detailed. The Washington Post quoted former House intelligence committee chairman Porter Goss as saying, "among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," which implies that the briefing discussed techniques then in use. But the then-Democratic chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Bob Graham, told the Post that he didn't know, despite the briefings, what the CIA was up to. "Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn't object," Graham said. How much of this is buck-passing and ass-covering and how much is true -- and who's engaged in which -- isn't at this moment clear.