Republicans keep pressure on Pelosi over interrogation flap
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on June 4 declined to say whether she stood by her claim that the CIA lied to her about its interrogation techniques, prompting the chamber’s top Republican to warn that the issue is “not going to go away” until Mrs. Pelosi backs up her statement or recants.
“I’ve said what I’m going to say on that subject,” Mrs. Pelosi responded when asked about the topic at her weekly press conference.
The California Democrat has kept mum in the three weeks since sparking a political firestorm by claiming intelligence officials misled her in a September 2002 briefing about enhanced interrogation tactics. She had been trying to deflect accusations that Democratic lawmakers gave tacit approval of the techniques, which President Obama has deemed torture.
Republicans are determined to keep the story in the news, arguing that her refusal to revisit her comments has had a “chilling effect” on the intelligence community. Republicans also noted that Mrs. Pelosi as speaker continues to receive classified intelligence briefings, despite her charges.
“She made this claim and it’s her responsibility to either put forward evidence that they did in fact lie to her, which would be a crime, or she needs to retract her statements and apologize,” said Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “Allowing this to hang out there is unconscionable.”
When asked what Republicans would do if she continued her silence, Mr. Boehner said “all options are on the table.”
“She’s made this outrageous claim. She’s undermined our intelligence officials,” he said. “Trust me: It’s not going to go away.”
Top Democrats, including Mrs. Pelosi, have called for an investigation into techniques employed by the Bush administration. Mr. Obama has released memos detailing the Bush administration’s use of aggressive techniques such as waterboarding against top terrorist suspects.
In the political fallout after Mr. Obama’s release of the memos, scrutiny turned to Mrs. Pelosi, a former top member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Mrs. Pelosi, in 2002 a top member of the House Intelligence Committee, initially said the CIA only told her it believed the tactics were legal but not that agents were planning to use them on any suspects. A CIA record of the briefings showed otherwise, saying she was informed that a detainee named Abu Zubaydah would be waterboarded.
On May 14 Mrs. Pelosi flatly told reporters that the CIA lied to her and said the agency continues to lie today by mischaracterizing the briefing. She also said the CIA lied in the run-up to the Iraq war.
“They mislead us all the time,” she said.
Her comments prompted CIA Director Leon E. Panetta to write a memo to his employees defending their honesty and calling for the rhetoric attacking his agency to be toned down.
Mrs. Pelosi issued her own statement afterward, saying her accusations were directed at the Bush administration, not at the employees of the CIA.
Some Republicans, including Rep. Steve King of Iowa and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have called for Mrs. Pelosi to resign as speaker.
Other Democratic leaders, including Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and Whip James E. Clyburn, have come to Mrs. Pelosi’s defense and accused Republicans of attempting to distract public attention away from the Bush administration’s record in the war on terror.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to comment on her claim that the CIA lied to her about interrogation techniques, though Republicans vow they will not allow the issue to “go away.”