House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might be fighting for her political future this week. Republicans say if the CIA misled Congress on the use of torture on terror suspects as Pelosi has claimed they want to see proof.
Pelosi wants the full transcript of classified notes of a 2002 briefing on waterboarding made public. She says that will prove she was not told the technique was being used. A top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee insists that he read those notes from that briefing and that Pelosi is wrong.
Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He says Pelosi needs to be held accountable for what she has said. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday.
Kiran Chetry: As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, how much information were you or your colleagues given regarding interrogation tactics?
Peter Hoekstra: I expect that what happened is very much like the briefings I received in 2004 when I became chairman of the committee. You get a very, very detailed briefing as to exactly what's going on in the program that the CIA may be laying out for you. When the briefing is complete, there's really a couple of questions that either they ask or that you ask. It's kind of like... is there any other additional information that you feel you need, congressman? And then really the implied question is... do you agree or do you not agree with the program and the tactics that we’ve put in place?
Chetry: So realistically speaking, if Nancy Pelosi at the time was informed about the waterboarding as a potential technique or even currently being used, would it be the proper or the de rigueur thing to do to write a memo expressing your opposition to that?
Hoekstra: Well, actually, the first thing you would do in the briefing, you would express your anger or your disagreement with the policy that you may be briefed on. If you don't get satisfaction from the briefers, because they're not the ones that are really making the decisions, what you would then do is go back to the leadership in your political party, in this case, she would have gone back to the minority leader and said... hey, there's a practice being contemplated or being acted on in the intelligence community that I disagree with and I think that we need to stop it. And then you would go to the president. There's lots of options that you can use.
Chetry: Congressman, as we've learned now, none of that happened at this point but there are differences. There's a he said/she said about how members of Congress were notified in this situation. Nancy Pelosi said she found out later from a staffer, actually. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Congress has “an absolute obligation to open an inquiry” to investigate Nancy Pelosi. He said if it turns out she lied she should be censured and step down as House speaker. Do you agree with that?
Hoekstra: She made some outrageous accusations last week where she said the CIA lied to her and lied systemically over a period of years. That is a very, very serious charge. And either the CIA needs to be held accountable for their performance during this time or the speaker needs to be held accountable and be held responsible for the actions and the statements that she made last week. One or the other is correct. One or the other is wrong. I think we can get to the bottom of this. All we need to do is get more information from the CIA and I think we'll get some more clarity to this issue.
Chetry: And if it breaks in favor of the CIA telling the truth should Nancy Pelosi step down as House speaker?
Hoekstra: Well, I think it comes close to that. You have to remember she’s been at the forefront.
Chetry: She is either forced to step down or she isn't. What's your opinion?
Hoekstra: Well I think she's been the one that has been saying people within the Justice Department need to be held accountable, people in the CIA need to be held accountable. If she wants to apply that same standard, it has to be applied to her as well… I think she's applied the standard. She wants to hold the lawyers accountable in the Justice Department. She wants to hold the folks in the CIA who carried out these programs accountable. She now has to move that standard to herself. She has to be held accountable for what she has said and what she did in 2002 and in 2003.
Chetry: All right. Well your critics are saying that Republicans want to focus on Nancy Pelosi to deflect attention away from the larger issue of the use of these interrogation methods and pressing for this truth commission. What do you say to your critics?
Hoekstra: We didn't bring that issue up. This issue came up four weeks ago when the president released the Justice Department memos. We were more than willing to say that the decisions that were made in 2002 and 2003 were the right decisions; they kept America safe. Let's continue moving forward and let's put the focus on winning this war against radical jihadists. We didn't go back. We didn’t open up this issue. This is something that the president opened up that something that really did not even need to be opened up.