Prodded by the release of dozens of declassified CIA documents, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reasserted her longstanding position about what she knew regarding the agency's use of harsh interrogation practices.
"I have never been briefed by the CIA or anyone else on the subject of those interrogations, to the extent that they were being used," the California Democrat told reporters Tuesday. "We were only briefed that there were lawyers in the Justice Department that thought they were legal, period."
The comments marked Pelosi's first foray into the controversy in nine months that pitted the top House Democrat against the nation's premier spy agency. Responding to a lawsuit filed by Amnesty International and two other human rights watchdog groups, the CIA released several dozen documents detailing how the CIA handled suspected terrorism suspects and briefed lawmakers about it.
The documents show Pelosi was briefed about "ongoing interrogations of Abu Zubaydah" on April 24, 2002, just weeks after the top Al Qaeda suspect was captured in Pakistan. Previously, Pelosi asserted the 2002 briefing covered only "interrogation techniques the administration was considering using in the future."
Last May, Pelosi accused the CIA of lying to her and other lawmakers about enhanced interrogation techniques used by the agency on terrorism suspects known as high-value detainees. Waterboarding, a simulated form of drowning, is one of the tactics interrogators used to coax information out of the suspects. Its use drew severe criticism because the United States has abstained from it in past conflicts.
Last year, Pelosi said she was only briefed once on the advanced interrogation methods, in September 2002. At the time, Pelosi was the House Minority Whip and top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She said in May 2009 that CIA briefers told her that "the use of enhanced interrogation techniques were legal," and added that waterboarding "was not being employed."
CIA records show that during the September 2002 briefing, Pelosi and others were given "a description of the particular enhanced interrogation techniques that had been employed" on Zubaydah. The U.S. was already waterboarding Zubaydah by that point. CIA officials said they believed agency briefers had indeed informed Pelosi that Zubaydah was undergoing waterboarding sessions.
With the exception of Tuesday, Pelosi has waved off all questions about the CIA dispute, indicating she would remain silent on the matter. And since launching her accusations about the truthfulness of the CIA, the speaker has also said that she has confidence in the agency to do its job.
Fox News' Pat Summers contributed to this report.
James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show "The Foxhole." His latest book is "Cheney One on One: A Candid Conversation with America's Most Controversial Statesman" (Regnery, November 2, 2015).