No wonder incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared impeachment off limits last year. She can’t impeach Bush and Cheney without impeaching herself.
Pelosi is among several top Democratic lawmakers, including senior House intelligence committee member Jane Harman and current Senate intelligence committee chief Jay Rockefeller, who were briefed on CIA torture methods in 2002 and for the most part made no objections.
The Democrats were coopted during tours of CIA detention centers—presumably the “black sites” used to interrogate suspected terrorists and first revealed publicly by the Washington Post’s Dana Priest.
The briefings represent a time-honored tactic of criminals everywhere: implicate others in your crimes so that they cannot go public—let alone hold you accountable—without sinking themselves.
Pelosi’s office declined to comment on the revelations; Harman says she filed a letter of protest about the torture program “but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything.” The Gang of Four consists of the House and Senate intelligence committee chairs and the senior minority members of the committees, a position Harman held in the House at the time. Pelosi refused to award Harman the House intelligence committee chair when Democrats regained the majority.
Harman’s contention that the secrecy oath trumps any other responsibilities, such as the oath every member of Congress swears to uphold and defend the Constitution, is a common dodge. The hapless Rockefeller has relied on it repeatedly to defend his own inaction upon learning of the administration’s illegal surveillance programs years before news of that became public.
One can understand the heady brew of fear excitement and privilege that arises from becoming one of a handful of people among a nation of 300 million who hold a particularly potent secret. It makes one feel special and distinct (although if Rockeller is any guide, impotent and small at times as well).
But the CIA is not, officially at any rate, a fourth and preeminent branch of government to which legislators owe fealty. It is not the place of our elected officials to earn self-gratification by holding that or any other agency’s guilty secrets. It is time for Pelosi and Rockefeller and anyone else involved in this coverup to step down from their respective posts (Harman, who doesn’t have a post, should simply go away).
Bush and Cheney will be in office another 400 days. That’s a long time. We need leadership from Democrats, and genuine oversight, and we’re not going to get it from anyone who, reluctantly or otherwise, has furthered the criminal and anti-Constitutional conspiracy run from the Oval Office.
Resign, Madam Speaker. Now.
UPDATE: John Aravosis mounts something of a defense on Pelosi’s behalf, suggesting that the leak to Post reporter Dan Eggen was orchestrated by the White House to embarrass Pelosi. Well, yeah, it is embarrassing, to say the least, when the Speaker of the House is revealed to have been a silent partner in crimes against humanity for several years.
Aravosis goes on to say that “It’s also clear that had Pelosi raised any private objections during the meeting – remember, it took place in the first year after September 11 – Bush and the Republicans would have leaked that fact to the public (like they just did) and destroyed her career and marked her publicly as a traitor. No member of Congress, no American, could have spoken up about anything in the months after September 11 and survived. It’s patently unfair to suggest that somehow because Pelosi didn’t object then that she doesn’t have the right to object now.”
That’s not so clear: no one could have leaked Pelosi’s objections without leaking what she was objecting to, which was something the administration dearly wanted to keep secret and even now refuses to officially acknowledge. And Jane Harman, the then-ranking member of the House intelligence committee (and someone not known as a bastion of independence) did object, with no retribution of the sort Aravosis imagines.
No: Pelosi knew for years that the administration was violating the Geneva Conventions and a number of U.S. laws, and did absolutely nothing to stop them or hold them accountable. That’s not defensible. She is not a fit leader and she needs to step down.