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January 29, 2010

Nancy Pelosi Stopped One Useful CIA Operation in 2004. So, Um, If Waterboarding Was So Bad, How Come She Couldn't Stop That?

She "came unglued." Unstitched might be a better metaphor.

In mid-2004, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi learned something from a CIA briefing that made her blood boil. Pelosi reportedly "came unglued" at the revelation and had "strong words" with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, demanding that the CIA abandon its plans. As a result, a top-secret finding that President George W. Bush signed to authorize the CIA's activities was revised. Pelosi succeeded in stopping the agency from moving forward with the controversial operation.

What drove Pelosi to action? Not the CIA's waterboarding of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists. In a 2009 interview, a former senior Bush administration official directed me to a little-noticed item from Time magazine. According to this 2004 report, Pelosi objected to a CIA plan to provide money to moderate political parties in Iraq ahead of scheduled elections, in an effort to counter Iran, which was funneling millions to extremist elements. "House minority leader Nancy Pelosi 'came unglued' when she learned about what a source described as a plan for 'the CIA to put an operation in place to affect the outcome of the elections,' " Time reported. "Pelosi had strong words with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in a phone call about the issue. . . . A senior U.S. official hinted that, under pressure from the Hill, the Administration scaled back its original plans." (Her role was also reported on this page by David Ignatius in 2007.)

Why is this important? Because on May 14, 2009, Pelosi, now speaker of the House, declared in a Capitol Hill news conference that she had opposed CIA waterboarding but was powerless to stop it. A former senior intelligence official told me in 2009 that he was shocked by Pelosi's claim because, he said, "Speaker Pelosi herself has stopped covert action programs that she has been briefed on by going to the White House. In that very same time frame [after she learned about waterboarding] Pelosi had gone back to the White House [over] a separate covert action program, expressed strong opposition to it. And the remarkable part to me, the White House backed off the program, changed one aspect of the program . . . she was particularly opposed to. And literally, the finding was pulled back and revised." If Pelosi had truly opposed waterboarding, he said, she had numerous ways to stop it -- but she didn't try.

That move -- stopping the funding of moderate parties -- seemed to have no other point than to try to sabotage the entire war effort, by the way.

No, Madame Speaker, I'm afraid I'm not terribly shaken up by the idea that the CIA attempts to influence elections with money. How old are you, for crying out loud? Your face says 90, but you seem stuck in 2nd grade.

Thanks to Mark Thiessen, who wrote this book right here.


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posted by Ace at 08:17 PM

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