New Questions Emerge In Torture Debate

(CBS)
Nancy Pelosi is at the center of a political maelstrom because of her claims that the CIA and the Bush administration misled her about its use of harsh interrogation techniques. Now new questions are being raised that may help to focus some of the attention away from the embattled Speaker of the House and back on the agency and members of the Bush White House.

In an interview yesterday with The Huffington Post, former Senator Bob Graham said that the CIA had also failed to tell him about their use of waterboarding and labeled the agency's records of briefings "suspect." Graham was briefed in his capacity as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The former senator's claims could lend credence to Pelosi's charges that although she was told by the CIA that the administration considered waterboarding legal, the agency failed to inform her that the controversial technique was being employed.

Graham also said that the CIA gave him false information about the number of times he had been briefed on its enhanced interrogation methods. After checking the agency's record of his meetings against his own daily schedule and personal notebook, the ex-Florida senator said that the CIA agreed that no briefings had taken place on three specific dates that it had previously claimed that meetings were held.

Making the ongoing debate about torture murkier still, Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff at the State Department, is claiming that the Bush administration used enhanced interrogation methods to help make a case for the war in Iraq based on a "smoking gun."

In The Washington Note, Wilkerson writes, "what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida."

Wilkerson also alleged that none of the harsh interrogation methods were employed during the president's second term because the administration had been burned by the release of the Abu Ghraib pictures. Consequently, Wilkerson questions former Vice President Dick Cheney's claims that President Obama's abandonment of such methods endangers the country.

All this hasn't silenced Pelosi's sharpest critic, of course. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was particularly vituperative in calling for an investigation into Pelosi's claims. Appearing on ABC Radio, Gingrich called Pelosi's behavior, "despicable, dishonest and vicious."

"I think she has lied to the House, and I think that the House has an absolute obligation to open an inquiry, and I hope there will be a resolution to investigate her. And I think this is a big deal," Gingrich said. "I don't think the Speaker of the House can lie to the country on national security matters."

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has also joined in on the Pelosi pile on. In an interview with Fox News, King called on Pelosi to resign and said that her charges against the CIA were "an outrageous accusation."
  • Brent Lang

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