This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 23, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: We were not, I repeat, not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today answering a number of questions about what she was told as the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee in the House about enhanced interrogation techniques.
Here's what "The Wall Street Journal" editorial said today: "The speaker now says she remembers hearing about waterboarding, though not that it would actually be used. Does anyone believe that? Porter Goss, her GOP counterpart at the time, says he knew exactly what he was hearing, and that, if anything, Ms. Pelosi worried the CIA wasn't doing enough to stop another attack. By all means, put her under oath."
Speaking of Porter Goss, at the time he was chairman of that House committee, he went on to become CIA director. He said in 2007 in an interview with "The Washington Post," there was pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing, and the reaction in the room was, "not just approval, but encouragement."
So what about this, the next step in these back and forths between the White House and Capitol Hill? Let's bring in our panel — Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of "The Washington Times," Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of "Fortune" magazine, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — Jeff?
JEFF BIRNBAUM, MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, I have to say that the more than 30 meetings in — earlier this decade about these techniques that were attended by the top Democrats and Republicans and top staffers and intelligence committees, there is no question that a lot of people on Capitol Hill knew about these techniques, and that they tacitly, if not overtly, approved of them.
If there's going to be a truth commission —
BAIER: Which Nancy Pelosi, we're told this afternoon at the White House in that meeting with the president, said she wants a truth commission.
BAIER: The president and the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apparently said they don't, but she pursued, according to Major Garrett's reporting.
BIRNBAUM: If there is a truth commission, the truth is going to come back to bite the leaders of Congress and will clearly undercut any effort to try to prosecute any of the writers of these so-called "torture memos."
There is no question that lawmakers are complicit in what Democrats on Capitol Hill are now complaining about is torture.
NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: I think Nancy Pelosi is clearly leading the left on this. She wants a truth commission. The Moveon.org, ACLU people want a special prosecutor. They just delivered petitions to Attorney General Holder demanding that.
As you're starting to see the pressure that this president was under leading up to releasing these memos.
BAIER: From the left.
EASTON: From the left, I should say.
But where do you stop? If you're going to start prosecuting and investigating, where do you stop? Do you go up to Condi Rice, who we now knew about this stuff in 2002?
Do you go to George Tenet, then the CIA director, who, by the way, has said that we learned more through these techniques than — about dangerous terrorist attacks than we did from the NSA, other CIA programs, and the FBI combined, OK? He said that in 2007.
And do we then, as Jeffry suggested, do we start looking at what was the complicity of Nancy Pelosi, whose story keeps changing, and other Democrats on the Hill?
I think the president — you know, Mort Kondracke last night was saying we should have a 9/11-style commission, and I disagreed with him then. I have come around. I think we should have that, because the president is in danger of losing control of this to the left and to Nancy Pelosi.
And he needs to not have a Nancy Pelosi truth commission, but a commission that he has control of. You have to put this energy in a box somewhere, and a special prosecutor is not the way to go.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Before you can decide whether to have a prosecutor or a commission, you have to know who the players. The Democrats want to make this a war on the Bush administration.
But there is one inconvenient fact, and it's stated by none other than Dennis Blair, who's the Director of National Intelligence under Obama, not under Bush. And he said in writing that the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities to the executive and to members of congress, and received permission to continue to use the techniques.
Now, he's a man who's completely disinterested in this. He does not have a stake in the fight, and that's what he says.
So among these Democrats, of course, among these members of Congress who are Democrats, we saw in that clip Nancy Pelosi saying that we were not told that these techniques were used in the past, past tense.
But what she said in December '07 in a statement in response to a "Washington Post" story which said that she had been in on the hearings and had not objected, had been in on the briefings and not objected, she issued a statement saying that she was briefed on interrogation techniques the administration was considering using in the future.
So the parsing here is positively Clintonian. But even so, it doesn't help her, because if you're in a briefing, and you're a member of Congress, and you're hearing about a technique that you now say you were scandalized and is a war crime and you opposed, what is more important to speak out about? A technique that has been used in the past, in which case the briefing is pointless, or speaking about a technique which is going to be used in the future, in which case your objection is essential, but it never happened either. It never happened, and she never objected.
So I agree with "The Wall Street Journal." If you want to have a commission, start with her. Put her in the dock under oath. Ask what did you know? When did you know it? And if it's a war crime, how could you possibly not have objected?
BAIER: And quickly, Jeff. This White House doesn't want to be here now, does it?
BIRNBAUM: I think it does to a very small degree. The notion of keeping open the possibility of prosecuting the lawyers who wrote the memos, I think they're not going to prosecute them, but they want to keep that open in order to appease the left that, as Nina points out, is putting so much pressure. It's just a rhetorical flourish.
BAIER: Another problem for President Obama, growing instability in Pakistan. We'll talk about what that means for the U.S., next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Changing paradigms and mind-sets is not easy. But I do believe that there is an increasing awareness on the part of not just the Pakistani government, but Pakistani people that this insurgency coming closer and closer to major cities does pose such a threat.
I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Different answers from the secretary of state about what Pakistan is doing to fight the Taliban. Word just today that the government has sent six platoons from its paramilitary force to the northwest frontier province, about 60 miles from Islamabad, where the Taliban is essentially taking over in that district.
So what about Pakistan and the threat here? We're back with the panel — Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the secretary of state spoke about this being a mortal threat to Pakistan and the region and the world, and it is. This is really scary stuff. I mean, platoons that the government has sent are worthless. What's happening is that the government is powerless, essentially.
And I think having the leadership of Afghanistan and having the president of Pakistan to visit the White House next month is not going to do anything, because the president of Pakistan has no power.
It's a country that is inclined to democracy, and there's democratic sentiment, but its democratic institutions are utterly worthless. There is only one institution that actually works, and that's the military.
And if this administration prides itself on realism, it has to prepare for what's going to happen, which is there's only one thing standing between the bad guys taking over and stability in Pakistan, or at least a non-takeover, and that is the military.
Much more important than our meetings with the president of Pakistan, who commands nothing, are our meetings with the head of the army, Kayani, and even with Musharraf waiting in the wings.
I would suspect that our discussions ought to be, at what point will the military step in and take over?
Kayani is smart. He wouldn't want to step in and look like a usurper the way that Musharraf did. I think he'll wait until things are truly falling apart, in which case he will be seen as a Cincinnatus riding in on a horse, and he will be proclaimed a rescuer.
I think that's going to be a delicate matter of timing, and we ought to be working on that.
BAIER: I should point out, six platoons is only about 300 members of the military heading to that area.
And it is a nuclear-armed country, Nina, and we've got a serious, serious issue there.
EASTON: And I think, you know, we're sensing from the administration serious frustration with the Zardari government. He, of course, is the widower of Benazir Bhutto. But he has been quite inept in dealing with the Taliban, which, by the way, is becoming clear, is the threat to the country — not so much Al Qaeda, the Taliban is.
And so, he has become — they have become a real threat. He has been inept. He has cut a deal with them to impose Islamic law in the Swat Valley. He has let the Taliban close down schools, let them beat up police, let them kill the locals. So there is this real frustration from the administration. What they're finding out is, just like the Bush administration found out, it's slim pickings in terms of who you are going to ally yourself with or support as a leader in Pakistan.
You've got Sharif, who is the populist leader, but he has got quite close ties to Islamic extremists. And then we've got — Musharraf, by the way, is waiting in the wings. He just granted an interview suggesting that he'd be happy to come back.
BIRNBAUM: I think Pakistan is quickly becoming the new Iraq. We thought — I thought that it would be Afghanistan that would be the biggest problems for Obama. I mean, going into that place would be a bottomless pit.
In this case, Pakistan is a place where the U.S. really can't intervene militarily, even though we may need to. And what's more, Democrats on Capitol Hill will also resist giving more money for Pakistan without attaching strings.
That may be the next debate, and could cause a problem here, not just overseas.
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