There's much to consider where Nancy Pelosi and past intelligence briefings on interrogation, detention, and torture are concerned. Lots. Especially after today! Plenty of observers, myself included, have found her attempt to navigate her way through a timeline of events to be wanting where satisfaction or clarity is concerned. I'd further suggest that if her central contention is going to be that she was legally barred from disclosing the contents of those briefings, that should provoke a whole new set of convserations: if a law prohibits a person from disclosing wrongdoing -- and violations of the Geneva Convention certainly fall into that category -- then that law is an ass, as they say.
That said, the media has decided on what their big takeaway of the day is, and frankly, it has focused on the most quotidian aspect of this controversy: that Nancy Pelosi is suggesting that the CIA has misled her. Dog bites man!
I've already watched a bunch of occasions in which our beloved dayside news anchors have stared, aghast, into the camera, and exclaimed, "Nancy Pelosi is taking on the CIA!" as if it were the most incredulous and surprising occurence to have ever happened. But this is hardly the first time the CIA has been accused of misleading. Heck, it happens all the damn time, really:
--John Boehner said today that, "I've dealt with our intelligence professionals for the last three-and-a-half years on an almost daily basis, and it's hard for me to imagine that our intelligence area would ever mislead a member of Congress." But when the topic was the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, Boehner sang a different tune: "Either I don't have confidence in what they told me several months ago or I don't have confidence in what they're telling me today." And on the February 11, 2007 edition of Meet The Press, Boehner said, "It's clear to all of us, Democrats and Republicans, that we have flawed intelligence. The CIA have bad intelligence, the Pentagon had bad intelligence and, for that matter, all of our allies around the world had the same bad intelligence. And so that's why Republicans voted to set up the National Intelligence Directorate to reform our intelligence activities."
--Here's Marcy Wheeler accusing the CIA of lying to ABC News a couple of times, and ABC not learning a lesson from it.
--In 2007, British intelligence officials accused the CIA of misleading them "over the arrest and treatment of terrorist suspects who were the subjects of rendition to Guantanamo Bay."
--Also in 2007, Federal prosecutors "said the CIA misled federal judges regarding the evidence against Zacarias Moussaoui."
--In 2004, the CIA had to acknowledge that they "did not provide the United Nations with information about 21 of the 105 sites in Iraq singled out by American intelligence before the war as the most highly suspected of housing illicit weapons."
--In 2008, then ranking member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Pete Hoekstra -- who has Pelosi under fire today -- himself "called for a criminal investigation into whether the CIA lied to Congress and withheld information from the Justice Department during its inquiry into the 2001 shoot-down of an American missionary plane by the Peruvian air force with help from a CIA counternarcotics spotter plane."
--Heck, if you cast your mind back, waaay back, to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, know what you'd find? People accusing the CIA of misleading! From Howard Jones' The Bay Of Pigs: "No one accepted blame for the failure at the Bay of Pigs. The Joint Chiefs insisted that the CIA misled them. The CIA countered that the military failed to execute a sound plan. The White House held both parties responsible, asserting that they did not provide the proper advice."
--And of course, the CIA famously destroyed some ninety-two videotapes that pertained specifically to the very detention and interrogation program that's at the center of this dispute, a move that truly exemplifies the agency's towering affection for honesty and openness!
So, look: let's not diminish the importance of uncovering all of Pelosi's what-did-she-know-and-when-did-she-know-its. But at the same time, let's not pretend that her accusal of the CIA is, in itself, some sort of eye-popping, unprecedented occurrence.