(Additional material at the end)
Nancy Pelosi, in stating that she's known for years about the wiretap on Rep. Jane Harman (a story that now has legs and threatens precious Harman's career and that of Pelosi, poor dears), unintentionally revealed yesterday why Congress has become irrelevant:
"'When you are briefed on something it isn't your role to share it with anybody else,' said Pelosi, who served on the Intelligence Committee for a decade until she entered the House Democratic leadership about six years ago."
Pelosi, along with Jane Harman, who were the ranking Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, were briefed along with two GOP Congressmen in 2002 about waterboarding being used on detainees - a war crime - and about the massive, warrantless surveillance by the NSA over all of our telecommunications - felonies in explicit and dramatic violation of FISA.
When it came out years later that this was going on, Pelosi said that yes, she was briefed, but she couldn't say anything about it.
This is part of what former CIA intelligence analyst (for 27 years) Ray McGovern said about this on December 12, 2007:House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has admitted knowing for several years about the Bush administration's eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. She was briefed on it when she was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee when Bush and Cheney took office.
One key unanswered question is this: Was she told that within days of their taking office—that is, seven months before 9/11, the National Security Agency's electronic vacuum cleaner had already begun to suck up information on Americans—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, not to mention the Constitution, be damned?
In a Washington Post op-ed of Jan. 15, 2006, Pelosi proudly advertised her uniquely long tenure on the Intelligence Committee and acknowledged that she was one of the privileged handful of lawmakers who were briefed.
"This is how I came to be informed of President Bush's authorization for the NSA to conduct certain types of surveillance," she wrote. Pelosi then proceeded to demonstrate the bowing and scraping characteristic of her subservient attitude toward the Executive Branch:
"But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval. There is a clear expectation that the information will be shared by no one, including other members of the intelligence committees. As a result, only a few members of Congress were aware of the president's surveillance program, and they were constrained from discussing it more widely."
This is an excerpt from a December 9, 2007 Washington Post article on the subject of waterboarding:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.
Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort. The CIA last week admitted that videotape of an interrogation of one of the waterboarded detainees was destroyed in 2005 against the advice of Justice Department and White House officials, provoking allegations that its actions were illegal and the destruction was a coverup.
Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.
With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).
Let me get this straight: the White House tells a handful of Congressional leaders that the White House is doing things on the hush-hush that are illegal so that
a) the White House can't be accused of hiding it and
b) so that they can say that there was bipartisan support for it if it ever comes out what they're doing, and
c) the reason we have representatives in Congress is supposed to be to protect the people's interests and uphold the law, but no matter what these people hear, no matter how illegal or egregious, it isn't their "role to share it with anybody else"?
Pelosi can't say anything, but I will say something: why don't we just disband Congress altogether, declare that we are a dictatorship, save all the money that is now spent on the pampered Congress and save us all the fiction that there is anything but a dictatorship?
In the same story cited above, there was also this:
"On Tuesday, President Obama said some officials who developed the policy for harsh interrogation could face prosecutions."
This represents, of course, a reversal of his earlier repeated assertions that those who developed the policies of torture - let's call it what it is - will not be prosecuted. This is a good sign, but it is only happening now because of the palpable and growing public outrage about the sadism that has been American policy that more people are now aware of and unwilling to tolerate any longer.
Obama doesn't want to go down this road. He is being forced down this road and will only go as far as he is forced to go by the people's demands.
For those who wonder whether torture works, see this from someone who was tortured, Binyam Mohamed, the only person released from Gitmo since Obama's election, and whose torture included razors used to cut into his penis:
“Far from improving, Mohamed said conditions at Guantanamo have worsened since Obama was elected in November.”