'Special Report' Panel on What Speaker Pelosi Knew About Interrogation Techniques
This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from May 8, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We were not, I repeat, not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, that's what House Speaker said April 23. This is the statement she released today — "I was briefed on interrogation techniques the 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."
FOX has obtained the official logs of these briefings, all of them, from the CIA and the intelligence director. And in one of the briefings, it says that the briefing was about these specific techniques that had been employed.
So what about all of this and the political fallout from it? Let's bring in our panel — Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard," Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, as you point out, her distinction, the Clintonian distinction between "I hadn't heard about what had already happened," versus "I was told about what would happen in the future," has now dissolved, because the evidence is her briefing was in September '02, and a month earlier, the enhanced interrogation, including 80 of simulated drowning, which, apparently, is now called "torture," had already occurred, and she had been briefed on it.
So that distinction collapses.
What is interesting to me is even if it had been true, it's not exonerating in any way. After all, where are you more complicit, if you get a hearing of what's already happened, torture already happened, and you acquiesce and say nothing? Well, you can always explain it away as it was over and done with.
Or if you are briefed on what the CIA is going to do, authorized to do, which you now claim is torture and abominable, and you say nothing, and you approve the appropriations over and over again, and you never registered a protest?
So her defense doesn't stand up either in theory or in practice. And the fact that you had over 60 members of Congress who were over those years briefed, which means about 30 Democrats, indicates that you will see a remarkable diminishment of zeal among Democrats to have an inquisition over these memos and these interrogations.
BAIER: Your point being is either way it comes out with the semantics, there were no he red flags raised — Juan?
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes. There were no red flags raised is exactly right.
Now, what Nancy Pelosi is saying is that they were talking about this prospectively. She didn't understand they were using those techniques. And she says that she was briefed a single time.
But, as Charles has pointed out, we know that these waterboarding techniques had been used prior to the date of her briefing.
Now, I will say I'm surprised to hear Charles say things like "Now that waterboarding is considered torture." I don't think — everybody, I think, considers it's torture. I don't think it's like taking a rollercoaster ride or going bungee jumping, where it's subject to some interpretation.
You don't say, "Why don't you waterboard me for fun." That's ridiculous.
What this really comes down to is the ongoing fight over how America uses interrogations. So you hear, for example, the Democrats saying we should have a probe, and we possibly should go after people who were preparing and creating legal rationales for the use of this, although they seem to have backed off.
And so what you hear from Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, is we should not only investigate those who were creating these rationales, we should well investigate the people who were giving the briefings, like Pelosi, and the fact that they were nodding their assent.
What I think what it comes down to is this back and forth over interrogation. And that's the real fight. And people are just looking to pile up points, and that's what's going on today with this Pelosi business.
BAIER: But doesn't this, with the House Speaker, take a little bit of the air out of the tires of this push for all these hearings and the truth commission, and all of that?
WILLIAMS: No, because — it does from a political point of view, because —
BAIER: That's what I mean.
WILLIAMS: — the Democrats will suddenly find themselves vulnerable to people saying you knew this was going on and you took no action.
But if the question is, should America be doing this to people, that's a separate issue.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": We shouldn't be doing to either one. But look, Nancy Pelosi, I think it's pretty obvious what happened. You had this briefing about of the waterboarding of Abu Zabaydah. They got some very useful information out of him.
Then some months later Nancy Pelosi comes in with Porter Goss and gets a briefing, hears about it, and doesn't bat an eye.
And she shouldn't have. You know why? Because she thought, look, this was a year after 9/11, and she thought under the circumstances, this made a lot of sense, and look what we got out of it.
But now, of course, years later, when she has learned that waterboarding is a good issue to use against President Bush and Republicans, she thinks it's torture.
Now, she didn't back then. She thought it was perfectly appropriate and effective to have used waterboarding back then. Well, she changed her mind now.
Look, what she should have said is this, very simple — "Look, back then, I heard about the waterboarding. It was used. It seemed like it was effective. But you know, I have thought about it in more recent years, and I don't think waterboarding is a good idea. We shouldn't be doing it." That's not what she said.
WILLIAMS: So you think she is just an outright liar?
BARNES: I do.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, in fact, the Bush administration said, essentially, what you are saying — at the time it worked, and it, itself abolished its use, I think, in 2003. So the last six years it has been off our radar, and, of course, Obama has renewed that.
I mean, in a time of crisis when you don't know what's happening and Al Qaeda is out there and you're blind, and you know that there are plots, you would engage in methods in which you would not engage in a quieter time. That's reasonable. And that's exactly what happened.
BARNES: There is a longer memorandum for record that the CIA has when the agents, or whoever does the briefings, goes back and writes down what they told them. Why doesn't Nancy Pelosi ask for that to be released, and maybe that will vindicate her. I doubt that.
BAIER: Quickly, where does it head from here?
BARNES: I think it does weaken the case that the Democrats are using that waterboarding was a terrible thing to do.
WILLIAMS: It should not weaken it if the Democrats are acting out of principle and not out of political expediency.
KRAUTHAMMER: You will see a reduction in zeal. I predict it.
BAIER: "A reduction in zeal."
KRAUTHAMMER: You can count on it.
BAIER: Count on it.
Next up, the fallout today from last week's buzzing of New York City by an Air Force One backup plane. Buckle up, the Friday lightning round is straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nobody is going to remember that it was a political appointee who made the decision to allow the flyover in Manhattan. It all rests on the shoulders of whatever president is in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, there it is, $329,000 of your money came up with this picture. This is the one photo the White House released of that flyover of New York City. The man behind that photo shoot who approved it, Louis Caldera, the head of the White House Military Office, has resigned.
What about this? The lightening round — Fred?
BARNES: I thought some of the wedding pictures I paid for when my daughters got married were expensive, but this is ridiculous.
And I think Dana Perino is on to something. It the past it has been a military officer, somebody the Pentagon sends over to head your military office.
This was a civilian, an appointee of Barack Obama. Obama is so lucky. Any other president, particularly George W. Bush, the press would be saying, "OK, you didn't know about it. Why didn't the president know about it? This guy works for him," and would hold the president or his high staff members responsible. Obama is getting off the hook.
WILLIAMS: No, I don't think so at all. In fact, the conclusion of the report says here "There are structural and organizational ambiguities exist within that White House office," Fred.
BARNES: I have heard worse things.
WILLIAMS: And it says that there is no line of communication to communicate when there is going to be a flyover, whether it's a military operation, or in this case, a PR operation.
So what is the big deal to be made out of this? Why is this a celebrated effort? I think it really is a reflection of people looking for something.
KRAUTHAMMER: This administration wants to triple the national debt, nationalize healthcare, and grandstands on interrogations in Guantanamo. I'm outraged out. I don't have any room left.
So I can't get excited about this. All administrations spend a lot of our money on PR. It did as well. Big deal.
BAIER: And the classic 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoon Washington release.
KRAUTHAMMER: Of course!
WILLIAMS: That's total corruption. There I see a pattern of clear political, you know, making use of a political moment.
BAIER: OK, Manny Ramirez, big hitter in the major leagues, L.A. Dodger, now suspended for 50 games — Fred?
BARNES: Well, as a red are sox fan, I'm glad he's with the Dodgers! But we don't know how far back the use of enhancing drugs — how long he used them.
I think the most incriminating part of this is the drug, HCG is one that you take to mask the side effects and the appearance of steroids themselves. That's very incriminating
WILLIAMS: You know, I'm just tired of baseball not owning up to this and going after it aggressively. And so — I know that lots of Red Sox fans who resent Manny Ramirez are delighting in his troubles.
But as someone who loves baseball, I'm just tired of the idea that someone like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays who, I think, turned 80 this week, their records are diminished by the performance of the likes of Manny Ramirez.
KRAUTHAMMER: This is what we know. He took a female fertility drug. He says it didn't have anything to do with steroids. And he says also it was the drug he took for a private health issue.
So I would say that if you have — I can understand why a fearsome, right-handed slugger would not want it known that he was trying to get pregnant.
So, I am with the Dodgers on this. Let him have his privacy and leave the guy alone.
BAIER: Quickly, today was Jack Kemp's memorial service. Charles, you were there. Some thoughts on Jack Kemp, quickly.
KRAUTHAMMER: It was intended to be at his own church, in Fourth Presbyterian, but it had to be held at the National Cathedral, the sixth largest on the planet. And that's because there were hundreds and thousands of people who loved him.
He was like Hubert Humphrey, a man who was ideologically principled. He never wavered or compromised, and yet was loved left, right, and center. He was a splendid human being.
WILLIAMS: Absolutely, and a great athlete. But, you know what, I think a mentor to so many people, and especially on tax issues. I mean, just an extraordinary man, and one of my favorites in all of my time covering Washington politicians because he was so forthright about what he was doing. And so, by the way, a bit — he had huge fans in the minority community in this country.
BARNES: You know, for a guy who has not held elective office for more than two decades, as Charles pointed out, thousands of people were there. I was there. I mean, the turnout was amazing.
And it was because of who Kemp was, a guy with a powerful personality, and yet beliefs that were more important to him than political ambition.
BAIER: Larger than life.
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