An Open Letter to America from Nancy Pelosi
By: Jim Byrd
Dear Fellow Americans–
As you may know, there have been rumors spread about my knowledge of when and if I was informed of the CIA’s tactics of waterboarding prisoners prior to February. 5, 2003. I attempted to clear up this misinformation in a press conference this past week, but was savagely attacked by a very unprofessional media. If it seemed that I was erratic and confused at times during the questioning, it was because I was literally being publicly tortured by a very intolerant and biased media, especially CNN, NBC, MSNBC, and other mainstream media shouting unrelated questions at me such as: “They lied to you? When were you first told? Did you protest? Why didn’t you tell us? Quite frankly, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Hussein could not have held his composure under that treatment.
So I would like to address the American public, and make perfectly clear the events and briefings between the CIA and myself, and to make clear when I was not informed about the implementation of waterboarding.
On September 4, 2002, the CIA met with me and other members of the House Intelligence Committee to discuss, at this particular meeting, what they were not going to do to gather information from Zein al-Abidin Muhammad Hussein regarding impending terrorist attacks on America. In this particular briefing, they told us that they were not going to use waterboarding, even though the Justice Department had declared it legal and greenlighted this tactic as an avenue to collect valuable information. But this was seven years ago, and my memory of the exact dialog of that day is not perfectly clear, as you can imagine. I do, however, remember it was 42 degrees and overcast.
On February 5, 2003, five months after the briefing in which the CIA said they were not going to use waterboarding, the CIA briefed the Intelligence Committee and stated they had used waterboarding as early as September 4, 2002, and the information gathered had saved American lives. I learned of this through my aide, and this was the first time I had knowledge of the CIA implementing waterboarding. Now at this point–what did I wear that day?–it is clear the CIA lied to me on September 4, 2002, about not utilizing waterboarding. This actually may have been the first time I heard the term “waterboarding”. I cannot honestly say that I met with the CIA in 2002. There is a good chance they are lying about the briefing even taking place. It was seven years ago, who can remember–now I remember, I wore a beige Ann Klein pantsuit that day–details of a conversation that long ago.
The CIA has stated that Pete Goss, then Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was present at the briefing. I do not remember him being at the briefing–if there was one at all. It was seven years ago–I believe I was wearing brown Ferragamo pumps–and Goss now states that the CIA did in fact brief the committee about having used waterboarding to gather valuable information that prevented other terrorist attacks on the America. Goss, who later became head of the CIA, is lying in tandem with the CIA. It is clear that he would validate the CIA’s misleading statements about the briefing since he later became head of that agency.
So to be clear, the CIA has been systematically lying to me and the Congress since 9/11. They mislead the entire Congress about their use of torture. Believe me, I would have stopped it if I had known, but as I stated before, I was only told by the CIA that they were not going to use waterboarding, even though it was legal at that time. When I knew what I did not know, I was powerless to intercede, and it would have been bad form since Rep. Jane Harmon was the ranking minority member of the committee instead of me in 2003.
The Republicans are trying to accuse me of being complicit in the use of waterboarding and its subsequent results of averting several planned attacks on America, and possibly saving thousands of lives, although nothing could be further from the truth. It is the Republicans who are lying. Just so the record is clear, I was not responsible for allowing waterboarding and its subsequent preventative actions.
CIA director, Leon Panetta, has stated, after an internal investigation: “Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values.” He made it very clear that the CIA did in fact brief me on Sept. 2, 2002. As I have stated emphatically throughout this ordeal, I have the utmost respect for the CIA and do not believe they have, nor would they, lie or mislead the Congress. My criticism of the manner in which the Bush Administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe.
As I have stated all along, and to be perfectly clear, this entire fiasco can be attributed to George Bush and his administration. From Bush’s lying about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, to the lying about waterboarding, it can all be encapsulated within the Bush administration.
Please remember that at the time, I was fighting a war in Iraq and trying to get a president elected and did not want to misplace–I was wearing pearl earrings–my priorities.
I believe that the only way to get to the bottom of this is to move forward with a Truth Commission to investigate and determine that it was, in fact, Bush’s fault, and make sure the documents that Dick Cheney wants declassified are never released, for the security of the country, of course. And if allowed, I will happily take the time to lead the Truth Commission and personally pick a non-biased and non-partisan committee.
Speaker of the House
Jim Byrd's website is A Skewed View.