House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Friday that she was briefed only once about the "enhanced" interrogation techniques being used on terrorism suspects and that she was assured by lawyers with the CIA and the Department of Justice that the methods were legal.
Pelosi issued a statement after CIA records released this week showed that Pelosi was briefed in September 2002 on the interrogation methods. The briefings memo appeared to contradict the speaker's claims that she was never told that waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation methods were being used.
"We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used," Pelosi said on April 23.
The emphasis seems to be on "were used," even though she conceded in a statement released Friday that she was told they would be used.
"As I said in my statement of December 9, 2007: 'I was briefed on interrogation techniques the (Bush) administration was considering using in the future. The administration advised that legal counsel for both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal,'" she said.
But even that statement is at odds with the official record of the briefings recorded in the CIA memo dated to Sept. 4, 2002. That memo says Pelosi received a "briefing on EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques), including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities and a description of particular EITs that had been employed."
Pelosi noted that the media had reported this week that CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote in a cover letter accompanying the briefings memo that "the descriptions provided by the CIA may not be accurate."
Pelosi is fighting back against accusations that she and other Democrats are being motivated by politics in their attempt to establish an independent commission to investigate officials and lawyers involved with the Bush-era interrogation programs.
Pelosi is just one of 65 lawmakers who received 40 briefings dealing with the subject. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., for instance, was repeatedly briefed, as was Rep. Jane Harman, D-Valif., who took over Pelosi's spot on the House Intelligence Committee.
In addition, from the beginning of the program in 2002 until it became public in the fall of 2006, the House held 13 votes to authorize intelligence funding at which time no one objected or demanded changes to any intelligence programs.
The briefings took place in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. At the time, the CIA was getting actionable intelligence that helped disrupt several terrorist plots.
Lawmakers apparently didn't want to stop that. But when it became public, Pelosi and others shifted gears and started criticizing a program they had known about for years, claimed GOP strategist Brad Blakeman.
"Either the speaker has a veracity problem or an incompetence problem and it could be both," Blakeman told FOX News. "The fact of the matter is she was briefed and she was hoping that the top secret nature of these briefings would shield her from this information coming out."
Blakeman added that he trusts the notes made at the briefings more than Pelosi's memory.
Justice Department officials are not likely to recommend criminal charges against the three Bush administration lawyers who the wrote the memos approving the interrogation methods, but two could face disciplinary action from their state bar associations.