House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that CIA officials lied to her about waterboarding has touched off a firestorm in Washington. She has tried hard to convince everyone that she knew nothing about the harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay in 2002.
She first attempted to exonerate herself by placing blame on the CIA, but when CIA Director Leon Panetta, a fellow Democrat, defended his agency, she backed off. When all else failed, she blamed the Bush administration. Republicans have hit back hard with several calling for her to step down. Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich has been leading the criticism for the Republicans, saying the House has an "absolute obligation to open an inquiry" and investigate here.
Here's a look at the attacks against Pelosi:
- "I think that the House has an absolute obligation to open an inquiry, and I hope there will be a resolution to investigate her. And I think this is a big deal. I don't think the Speaker of the House can lie to the country on national security matters," said former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Gingirch said Pelosi was involved in a "despicable, dishonest, and vicious political effort" to withhold what she knew about the interrogations.
- It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress," said CIA Director Leon Panetta.
- "I think it's a tragedy that we are seeing this massive attack on our intelligence community which has kept us safe," Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC's "Today." Bond questioned why Pelosi was "going after the agency and calling them liars," according to the Boston Globe. “I have looked at the underlying materials, not only the records they kept but the cables they sent out to the field. From what was apparently contemporaneous documents, it’s clear that they did tell her.”
- Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, called on Pelosi to resign. On Fox News he said that her criticism of the CIA was "an outrageous accusation" and said that it was the height of arrogance for her "to think she can roll back the truth."
- “Now they can make a fuss on policy differences, but to try and besmirch the people who had these tough decisions to make during those trying times is really offensive to people like me," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the longest-serving member of the Intelligence Committee.
- “I think the problem is that the Speaker has had way too many stories on this issue,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at his weekly news conference. “It’s pretty clear that [Democratic leaders] were well-aware of what these enhanced interrogation techniques were, they were well-aware that they had been used, and it seems to me that they want to have it both ways.”
And here are the Democrats who have come to Pelosi's aid:
- "I'm sure Karl Rove is proud that the Republicans found a way to criticize Nancy Pelosi for not doing enough to stop the same illegal practices that they supported and continue to defend," said Rep. John Yarmuth (KY.). "It's clearly a desperate attempt to find any political traction with an American public that has given up on them."
- “I have known Speaker Pelosi for more than 45 years, and I believe her. The Republicans’ focus on what she knew and when is a political distraction meant to divert attention from the question of whether the Bush Administration allowed torture to be used," said Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
- "I think there is so much embarrassment in some quarters [of the CIA] that people are going to try to shift some of the responsibility to others -- that’s what I think,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who sat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and was briefed on interrogation techniques five times between 2006 and 2007.
- "It is ridiculous to argue that the Speaker, who was then the ranking minority member of the Intelligence Committee, could have prevented President Bush from carrying out this policy," said House Intelligence Panel Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX).
The White House has stayed out of the fire storm for the time being. "I appreciate the invitation to get involved, but I'll decline to RSVP," said Spokesman Robert Gibbs when asked to comment on the battle of words.
Then there is Sen. Joe Lieberman who has a much different opinion on the situation. "This is an argument over something that’s been fixed and it’s now heading toward a major partisan war here on Capitol Hill, which will only distract us," Lieberman said. This whole debate is a "waste of time," he added.