Posted by: Randy Allgaier | May 16, 2009

The Speaker is a Woman of Integrity- So say Graham, Democratic House Colleagues and I

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused the CIA of misleading her in 2002 about its use of waterboarding during the Bush administration.  It seems absurd for me to write a piece defending Speaker Pelosi- who am I to defend her?  I am a constituent, I am a supporter and I have worked with her office on a number of occasions.  That should give me some standing in denfending the Speaker even if she doesn’t need my small voice added to the chorus of support for her.

Former Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, is also disputing the CIA’s version of the briefings that he received at the time. Graham was then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, while Pelosi was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Graham is known as a meticulous note-taker and has maintained a daily log that fills hundreds of spiral notebooks, which now reside at the University of Florida Library of Florida History.

“Several weeks ago, when this issue started to bubble up, I called the CIA and asked for the dates in which I had been briefed,” Graham tells Robert Siegel. “They gave me four: two in April of ’02, two in September.”

Graham says he consulted his logs “and determined that on three of the four dates there was no briefing held.”

He adds: “On one date, Sept. 27, ’02, there was a briefing held and, according to my notes, it was on the topic of detainee interrogation.”

Graham says the CIA was initially reticent when he told the agency what he had found in his notes.
“They said, ‘We will check and call back,'” Graham recalled. “When they finally did a few days later, they indicated that I was correct. Their information was in error. There was no briefing on the first three of four dates.”

Graham says the agency offered no explanation regarding how it came up with the other dates.

The Sept. 27, 2002, briefing occurred about three weeks after the briefing in which the CIA says it told Pelosi about the use of waterboarding, a technique also described as simulated drowning. Graham, like Pelosi, says waterboarding was not mentioned during his briefing.

“There was no discussion of waterboarding, other excessive techniques or that they had applied these against any particular detainees,” he says.

Pelosi has charged that she was misled by the CIA. Graham puts it another way.

“Nothing that I can recall being said surprised me or has subsequently proven to be incorrect,” he says. “It was a matter of omission, not commission.” Graham says he is not surprised at the CIA’s claims, noting that within a week of its Sept. 27 briefing, the agency presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee its National Intelligence Estimate of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was later shown to be flawed.

“I’m not impressed with the credibility of the CIA as it was being led in 2002,” Graham says. “I think it had become an agency that instead of following the admonition to speak truth to power, it was trying to speak what it thought power wanted to hear.”

Speaker Pelosi’s House colleagues are standing behind her as she takes incoming fire from the CIA and Republicans on the interrogation briefings flap and are ready to fight back.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman, Rep. John Larson (D-CT), said Friday that he agrees with Pelosi’s assertion that the CIA misled Congress and Democrats will stand with the leader.

“I will stand by her integrity any day of the week,” Larson said, casting the dispute with the CIA as more of a debate between the Speaker and Bush administration officials.

“Nancy Pelosi has more integrity in her pinky than Karl Rove and Dick Cheney possess in their entire body,” he said.

Larson called the question of what Pelosi learned at a September 2002 intelligence briefing on interrogations a “distraction” created by Republicans who want to deter Congress from investigating whether the Bush administration condoned and used torture.

“It’s clear what the other side is up to. They are saying no. They are providing subterfuge and they are not working to get what’s in the best interest of the American people accomplished,” Larson said in an interview with Fox News Channel.

Additionally, in addressing Pelosi’s argument that the CIA misled Congress, Larson tried to draw a distinction and added that what she is talking about is the “Bush-era CIA,” which he says President Obama has since tried to reform.

Larson said that while he is not sure whether a truth commission exposing intelligence community action during the Bush administration is in the best interest of the country, he is confident it will show Pelosi did nothing wrong.

“Anytime you want to shine the bright light of character…we will welcome that test,” he added.

I’ve personally worked with Speaker Pelosi’s office since the mid 1990s and I can unequivocally say that this woman is not a liar and she is a woman of high integrity. Yes she is a fierce and astute politician and she is a staunch Democrat. When Mrs. Pelosi says something she means it and she doesn’t make it up.

Speaker Pelosi and Randy Allgaier

Speaker Pelosi and Randy Allgaier

She is a woman of great passion and insight – she spoke against the war in Iraq early and has been an unyielding advocate for a free Tibet- to the consternation of many an administration not wanting to ruffle Beijing’s feathers.

My own experience with the Speaker is on HIV/AIDS issues. She is loyal, she is committed and she is fierce. Speaker Pelosi’s first words from the floor of the House were that she came to the House to solve the problem of AIDS. Her colleagues were mortified that she would make this statement as a freshman in the late 1980’s when politicians didn’t talk about AIDS. Well she did.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be accused of many things – not being terribly articulate at times, saying too much when her ire is up, being a partisan, and being a strong woman that threatens many of those milk toast white guys in Congress, but she is not someone given to lying and she is a woman with high integrity.  Plain and simple- the Speaker is a loyal American who loves her country and has dedicated her life to its service.

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