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Ex-CIA Official: Agency Brass Lied to Congress About Interrogations

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Friday 15 May 2009  t r u t h o u t | Report

"A CIA employee of two decades,
[Mary O]McCarthy became convinced that 'CIA people had lied' in that briefing, as one of her friends said later, not only because the agency had conducted abusive interrogations but also because its policies authorized treatment that she considered cruel, inhumane or degrading."

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Last month, former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey sharply criticized President Obama's decision to release four "torture" memos, writing in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal that the "disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption."

Buried in their column was the claim that the methods the CIA used against "high-value" detainees, such as waterboarding, beatings and stress positions "were disclosed repeatedly in more than 30 congressional briefings and hearings beginning in 2002, and open to all members of the Intelligence Committees of both Houses of Congress beginning in September 2006."

"Any protestation of ignorance of those details, particularly by members of those committees, is pretense," the former Bush officials wrote.

Several prominent Republicans, including Rep. John Boehner, (R- Ohio) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan), the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, have echoed Hayden's claims in an attempt to show Democrats were complicit because they did not protest when they were briefed about the "enhanced interrogation" program and the techniques CIA interrogators intended to use.

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"It was not necessary to release details of the enhanced interrogation techniques, because members of Congress from both parties have been fully aware of them since the program began in 2002," Hoekstra wrote in an op-ed also published in The Wall Street Journal last month. "We believed it was something that had to be done in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to keep our nation safe. After many long and contentious debates, Congress repeatedly approved and funded this program on a bipartisan basis in both Republican and Democratic Congresses."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had been the ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee, vehemently denied that she was told the CIA planned on waterboarding detainees or intended to use other brutal techniques to try and extract information from "war on terror" prisoners.

"My colleague [Porter Goss], the chairman of the committee, has said 'if they say that it's legal you have to know they are going to use them,'" Pelosi said last month. "Well, his experience is that he was a member of the CIA, later went on to head the CIA and maybe his experience is that if they tell you one thing they may mean something else. My experience is that they did not tell us they were using that. Flat out. And any - any contention to the contrary is simply not true.

"They told us they had opinions from the [Justice Department's] Office of Legal Counsel that they could, but not that they were using enhanced techniques, and that if and when they were used, they would brief Congress at that time. As a member of Intelligence, I thought I was being briefed. I realized that was not true when I became ranking member."

On Thursday, Pelosi held a news conference and accused the CIA of lying to Congress.

The CIA "mislead us all the time," Pelosi said. "They misrepresented every step of the way, and they don't want that focus on them, so they try to turn the focus on us."

Questions about what the Democrats knew about the CIA's torture program were raised two years ago when it was revealed that the CIA had destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes in November 2005 and that the agency had informed Democratic lawmakers about its plans.

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Following that disclosure, Representative Harman's office released a February 2003 letter she wrote to the CIA advising the agency against destroying the videotapes. The CIA declassified Harman's letter at the congresswoman's request.

"You discussed the fact that there is videotape of [high-level al-Qaeda operative] Abu Zubaydah following his capture that will be destroyed after the Inspector General finishes his inquiry," Harman wrote. "I would urge the Agency to reconsider that plan. Even if the videotape does not constitute an official record that must be preserved under the law, the videotape would be the best proof that the written record is accurate, if such record is called into question in the future. The fact of destruction would reflect badly on the Agency."

Harman's letter raised concerns about the CIA's use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and questioned whether President Bush had authorized the methods. In her letter, she advised the agency against destroying the videotapes out of concern the footage CIA agents captured "would be the best proof that the written record is accurate, if such record is called into question in the future."

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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