Watching today's press conference where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tried to defend herself against allegations she was briefed about enhanced interrogation techniques prior to their use was itself torturous. See "Pelosi Accuses CIA of 'Misleading' Her on Interrogations" that says among other things:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi... acknowledging for the first time publicly she knew alleged terrorist detainees were subjected to waterboarding more than six years ago...called for the CIA to release detailed notes from her own September 2002 briefing about interrogation techniques. She said today that, at that 2002 briefing, she was told the CIA was not waterboarding detainees
"At every step of the way, the administration was misleading the Congress. And that is the issue," Pelosi said in a heated news conference...
Today was Pelosi's first chance to address the interrogation briefing issue since the CIA released a detailed memo last Thursday outlining 40 congressional briefings given since September 2002 regarding the use of what it calls "enhanced interrogation techniques" on suspected terrorists. That memo included footnotes that appeared to contradict Pelosi's previous statements that she was never personally briefed by Bush administration officials on the use of such tactics, including waterboarding, a controversial technique that simulates drowning.
Believing Pelosi was becoming difficult. It seemed she was coming up with different versions of events. Then I thought about this a little bit. If someone asked me to recall and recount something I was told six or seven years ago, I would have problems doing so. Even if the event was a prominent one, I think I would miss details. Still, having seen several variations of her story about what she knew and when she knew it, there was the perception she was hiding or embarrassed about something.
A bombshell was dropped today in the form of a revelation that former Florida Senator Bob Graham said that the CIA claims he was briefed twice on torture but those briefings never took place. Senator Graham made these allegations on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show. If you are familiar with Bob Graham, you know he is the guy that was lampooned for writing down everything that happened and each person he met every day in his journals. If something isn't in his journals, it never happened. As a result, he knows EXACTLY what took place during those two days on which the CIA claims the briefings took place and he was never briefed. Score one for Bob Graham's journals. To those people who liked to make fun of them, I guess they don't seem so funny now, do they?
Once confronted with Graham's evidence, the CIA started backtracking and saying that they may have been mistaken about the briefings and dates in question. Can a complete vindication of Pelosi be far behind? Speaker Pelosi should be aggressive and demand an investigation into who the CIA informed and when. The bad perceptions some people still may have are intolerable. The issue of torture is one on which Democrats should and must be unequivocal. Republicans can try to justify torture and those who approved it if that is what they want to do, but for Democrats, it is as President Obama said, "We Do Not Torture". It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Since it should be obvious to just about everyone by now that investigations is where this is heading, President Obama has to face the situation and deal with it. I know he didn't want to address this now, and truth be told, I would have preferred that this waited until after Universal Healthcare and other important initiatives of the administration were addressed, but there is no other choice left. Obama has to appoint an independent counsel to probe allegations of torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the former administration.
Once we start an investigation, then we will see who starts backtracking on comments. Consider the various defenses the Bush administration and its former members has been using just in the past few months as written by a commenter to the above article at Emptywheel:
1) It was no big deal, we didn’t torture “that” much or “that” severely.
2) We don’t torture. Never tortured. Never hurt anyone…only saved lives.
3) If we did torture, it was the Democrats’ fault for not stopping us. And anyone who was tortured deserved it.
The country will be better for this investigation. Torture isn't just wrong, it is criminal and it is ineffective. An investigation would show how military intelligence officers tried to protest its use on multiple occasions and were ignored by the Bush administration. An investigation would show that the attacks that former Vice President Dick Cheney claims were prevented by intelligence gathered by torture were in fact thwarted with intelligence obtained through other means. Finally, an investigation and punishment of those responsible would show the world that the United States intends to live up to its creed and to the Geneva conventions on torture that have been in existence and well known to every member of the international community for the past 70+ years.