Was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) briefed on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, such as water boarding, or not? When? Current Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta and former Director Porter Goss have a different version of events. Pelosi read a parsed written statement repeatedly at her weird press conference, blaming the CIA.
The CIA says they discussed interrogation techniques in general and the methods used on Abu Zubaida in particular with Pelosi in September, 2002 and again in February, 2003. It is now hard to remember how aggressive the CIA was and how compliant Congress was in the wake of 9/11.
Zubaida was probably only a member of al-Qaeda in his mind and that of his interrogators. He was unlike Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a high value capture at the center of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the 1998 bombings at the U.S. Embassies in Africa, the 9/11 attack and the murder of Daniel Pearl. Like his friend Ossama bin Laden, Mohammed fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Mohammed was captured in Karachi by Pakistanis in 2003.
Smelling Pelosi blood in the water, the press feeding frenzy has started. If Speaker Pelosi stepped down in favor of #2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer (D-MD), it would be in the new American tradition of sacking a sitting Speaker of the House.
It was not always thus. Previous Speakers of the House served for 10 years or more until Jim Wright (D-TX) succeeded Tip O’Neill (D-MA). Wright resigned his job in 1989 under an ethics investigation for avoiding limits on gifts related to his book deal. His successor, Tom Foley (D-WA), lost his seat in the Republican House landslide election of 1994, catapulting Newt Gingrich (R-GA) to Speaker.
By 1998, Newt had lost his mojo and resigned as Speaker. Bob Livingston (R-LA) was unanimously elected to succeed Newt. Then porn publisher Larry Flynt broke the story of Livingston’s affair so he never served as Speaker of the House and House Republicans chose Denny Hastert (R-IL) as Speaker. Hastert was Speaker for eight years until Democrats regained the House Majority in their landslide of 2006. Pelosi turned back Hoyer for Speaker of the House.
Can Pelosi hold onto Speaker or is she too damaged by changing her story too often? She was convenient for President Barack Obama because she was so liberal, he looked like a moderate. Now she is caught in a war of words with a former House Democrat, Leon Panetta. This is an unneeded and unwanted distraction from the job of Speaker, focuses attention on the past and not the future, such as putting more troops into Afghanistan and conducting more military tribunals. He also does not want the compliant press becoming newly aggressive toward him.
House Democrats would be right to sack her.