Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pelosi Endorses Potential Criminal Investigations

Rachel Maddow sat down with Nancy Pelosi the other night for a comprehensive interview:

A few items of note, specifically on the sections of the interview that focus around investigating potential criminal actions by the Bush Administration:

1. Pelosi endorses the idea of Senator Leahy's proposed "Truth Commission" to investigate past actions by the Bush Administration, but is concerned about any proposed immunity for officials that agree to testify.

- I fully agree with Pelosi on this point. Exchanging immunity for testimony, while potentially helpful in bringing out elements of the truth, would impede any meaningful attempt at holding those who broke the law accountable. The goal needs to be more than simply a "truth commission", but a serious attempt to investigate the lawbreaking of the past eight years.

2. If the Inspector General report comes back with the indication that there was criminal wrong-doing, Pelosi would support moving forward with additional action against former Bush Administration officials.

- It is reassuring to hear the Speaker of the House come out and directly state that she would support these actions. While President Obama still remains non-committal on this issue, stating that while no one is above the law he prefers to look forward, members of Congress will need to lay the groundwork and keep the pressure on Obama to move forward with these investigations.

3. Maddow does a fantastic job of following up this line of questioning with confronting Pelosi with the fact that she, and other Democrats, had been briefed on these torture programs in 2001 and 2002. Maddow asks Pelosi if it is problematic that she did not raise these concerns over torture publicly after she was briefed. Pelosi then claims that she (and others) were never made aware that the government was actually using these so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques".

Maddow continues to (rightly) push Pelosi on this point because Pelosi's presence in meetings that discussed these techniques could indicate that she and other Democrats not only knew of these programs but were complicit in approving torture. Maddow asks Pelosi if the Administration gave the inference that they believed that waterboarding was now legal. Pelosi says that they may have given that inference, but that she never knew it had been implemented.

This admission is potentially problematic. If Pelosi and others knew that the Administration viewed techniques like waterboarding as legal, what would stop them from using such techniques. Just because the Bush Administration didn't come out and tell Pelosi that they were torturing doesn't mean that it is a surprise that they did. After all, if they told Pelosi and other Democrats that they believed these actions to be legal, why would they not use them? Pelosi is adamant that she couldn't talk about anything that was disclosed in the meetings and therefore could not publicly object to these policies.

Pelosi's statements are difficult to verify at this point considering so much is still secret and I still have my doubts that Democrats were completely in the dark as to what was going on. The new information that this interview does bring out, is that Pelosi is willing to endorse investigations into criminal wrong-doing by the Bush Administration and does not believe that anything that she and/or other Democrats knew, will get in the way of these investigations.

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