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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Jeffrey Misleads on Panetta
Topic: CNSNews.com

In his May 20 CNSNews.com column, Terry Jeffrey asserted that CIA chief Leon Panetta "contradicted" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA did not brief her on the use of waterboarding against detainees in a 2002 briefing. Jeffrey then went on to quote Panetta:

“Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress,” Panetta said in a statement to CIA employees. “That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed.’” 

But Jeffrey omitted what Panetta said immediately after that: "Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened." That's not an affirmative statement that the CIA told the truth about the Pelosi briefing.

Further, as Politico's Josh Gerstein wrote, Panetta's entire statement "says less than people are claiming":

Look carefully at Panetta's statement from Friday, especially the verb tense used. "Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress." First, "let me be clear" always precedes an ambiguous statement. Without fail. Panetta isn't opining on past acts. He's referring to the current policy. He's also not saying it never happens or happened that someone lied to or misled Congress. He's saying the agency as a whole doesn't intend to.

Panetta was at his Monterey, Calif. think tank when this all happened in 2002 and 2003. He doesn't know if Pelosi was lied to. He also doesn't say he talked to the briefers and is convinced they're telling the truth. He just says the paper records say she was briefed about the techniques. We knew that already from agency statements. So he's adding his voice to the mix and sending a signal that he'll stand by his agency, but to say he sided with the briefers on the specifics is just wrong.

In other words, it's not contradictory at all.

UPDATE: A May 20 CNS article by Fred Lucas similarly claims that "Pelosi’s account has been contradicted by CIA Director Leon Panetta" and doesn't quote Panetta's statement that "Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened."


Posted by Terry K. at 12:48 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 3:16 PM EDT

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