GOP hits back over torture probe

Boehner, Graham try to deflect investigations into Bush-era interrogation techniques by criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Published May 13, 2009 10:25PM (EDT)

When a Senate Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on Bush administration interrogations Wednesday, it didn't take long before partisan rancor became the order of the day. A number of prominent Republicans came out to call the kettle black, so to speak, accusing Democrats of hypocrisy and threatening to drag House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., into any probe.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that though the Democrats are making noise about investigations, they aren't likely to commit to the process, because it would implicate too many individuals from their own party.

"They are going to continue to talk about these truth commissions, but at the end of the day, they are probably not going to get anywhere, because there were dozens of Democratic members on both sides of the Capitol who were briefed on these techniques, said nary a word, and in some cases encouraged our intelligence officials [to] go further," Boehner said.

Pelosi in particular has been at the center of this issue. Republicans claim she has not been candid about briefings on interrogation she received while serving on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. She's become something of a figurehead in the GOP's attempts to redefine the torture probe as a hypocritical, partisan witch hunt. Said Boehner: "I think at the end of the day, we just ought to know, what did she know, when did she know it and what did she do about it? You can't have your cake and eat it too. And it appears that is what the speaker is attempting to do."

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., wondered if the hearings were a "political stunt," and hinted that he, too, wouldn't mind seeing Pelosi on the hot seat. “I don't want to retry Nancy Pelosi -- that's not my goal -- but if you're going to accuse these people in the Bush administration of being evil and committing a crime, then if she was told, I want to know what she was told,” he said.

Pelosi has admitted that she was briefed on interrogations in September 2002, but has said she wasn't told the methods were actually being used. New reports indicate that in February of 2003, one of her aides was briefed about the use of waterboarding on al-Qaida member Abu Zubaydah, and that the aide informed her about it. The aide, Michael Sheehy, also reportedly told Pelosi that Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who'd also been briefed, was drafting a letter of protest. Pelosi is said to have told Sheehy to tell Harman that she supported the letter, but she's not listed as a signatory or otherwise mentioned in it.

By Ben Travers

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Nancy Pelosi D-calif. Torture