Wingnuttia talking points and investigating the Bush torture program

Posted By AzBlueMeanie:

The latest wingnuttia talking point in the media is "what did Nancy Pelosi know about the Bush torture program and when did she know it?" The talking point is meant to suggest that Nancy Pelosi approved of the Bush torture program.

Republicans are using this as a threat to impede any investigations into the Bush torture program and an appointment of a special or independent prosecutor. If Democrats want to open an investigation into Bush administration officials for torture, so the threat goes, Republicans will retaliate against Democratic members of Congress who "did not object to" (and by implication approved of by their silence and acquiescence) the Bush torture program.

I say, "bring it on!"

There are only a limited number of members of Congress who would have received the highly classified national security briefings about the Bush torture program, and the Bush domestic warrantless spying program as well. This small group of Congressmen are known as the "gang of eight" under 50 U.S.C. § 413b(c)(2). Gang of Eight

The "gang of eight" was comprised of the majority (Republican) and minority (Democratic) leadership: Speaker of the House and Minority Leader; Senate Majority and Minority leaders; House Intelligence Committee chair and ranking minority member; and Senate Intelligence Committee chair and ranking minority member.

Members of the gang of eight are eligible to receive highly classified national security briefings and are sworn to secrecy under penalty of prosecution for the protection of national security.

Exactly what the gang of eight was briefed upon and the scope and level of detail of these national security briefings is unknown — it is still classified. For all anyone in the media and the public knows, the gang of eight may have been given only a power point presentation of bullet points with limited detail and few specifics. We may never know what members of the gang of eight were actually briefed upon unless and until there is a thorough investigation.

It is not only conceivable but highly probable that Bush administration officials limited the scope and level of detail given to members of the gang of eight during these classified national security briefings. The gang of eight member's hands were tied by their national security oaths of secrecy. They could not object publicly or even in the normal course of congressional oversight in the intelligence committees. (Not that there ever was any congressional oversight during the Republican Congresses.)

Moreover, the highly partisan Bush administration treated Democrats as political opponents to be defeated (for example, the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002 which was used as a bludgeon to defeat five Democratic Senators in November, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle). It strains credulity to believe that the highly partisan Bush administration would share more than the bare minimum level of detail with the gang of eight to avoid handing Democrats an issue with which to impeach the president.

To suggest that the gang of eight "did not object to" (and by implication approved of by their silence and acquiescence) the Bush torture program assumes facts not in evidence (there may have been objections stated in these classified briefings) and disregards the national security secrecy that attaches to these highly classified national security briefings. Members of the gang of eight could have been prosecuted had they disclosed any details of the classified briefings. This gave the Bush administration iron-fisted leverage to suppress any objections to what the Bush administration was doing — almost dictatorial power under the guise of protecting national security.

The Bush torture program purportedly had ended by January 2007 — just as the Democrats took control of the Congress — and Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House.

There are members of the gang of eight whom I would like to depose under oath subject to penalty of perjury, beginning with Porter Goss who was the House Intelligence Committee chairman during Bush's first term, and who was appointed by Bush to Director of the CIA. Goss has been a vocal defender of the Bush torture program. I would also like to depose Pat Roberts, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, who purposefully delayed for years the two-part congressional investigation into the bogus intelligence used to justify the war with Iraq. And of course, I would like to depose Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House during the relevant time period.

Go ahead Republicans, request subpoenas for all the members of the gang of eight, I dare you. Let's find out what the Bush administration actually told the gang of eight about its torture program and domestic warrantless spying program. There are an equal number of Republicans and Democrats who served on the gang of eight. If any Democrats are culpable, the Republicans are equally culpable. If any members of Congress broke the law, they should be held accountable under the rule of law alongside members of the Bush administration. Bring it on!

In the end there is one person ultimately liable for the illegal torture program, the man whose signature appears on the still secret presidential orders authorizing ilegal torture — George W. Bush.

Here is a list of the members of the "gang of eight" during the relevant time period.

107th Congress (2001-2002)

Dennis Hastert, Speaker of House
Richard Gephardt, House Minority Leader
Tom Daschle, Senate Majority Leader
Trent Lott, Senate Minority Leader
Porter Goss, House Intelligence Chair
Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence ranking member
Bob Graham, Senate Intelligence Chair
Richard Shelby, Senate Intelligence ranking member

108th Congress (2003-2004)

Dennis Hastert, Speaker of House
Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader
William Frist, Senate Majority Leader
Tom Daschle, Senate Minority Leader
Porter Goss, House Intelligence Chair
Jane Harman, House Intelligence ranking member
Pat Roberts, Senate Intelligence Chair
John Rockefeller, Senate Intelligence ranking member

109th Congress (2005-2006)

Dennis Hastert, Speaker of House
Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader
William Frist, Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader
Peter Hoekstra, House Intelligence Chair
Jane Harman, House Intelligence ranking member
Pat Roberts, Senate Intelligence Chair
John Rockefeller, Senate Intelligence ranking member

NB: Check out Media let GOP change the subject in torture debate | Media Matters for America

By focusing on what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other congressional Democrats knew about the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques, as the GOP has advocated, some in the media have ignored evidence that the Bush administration began using the tactics before briefing congressional Democrats, and that upon learning of the techniques in 2003, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee expressed concerns to the CIA, but did not have the authority to force a change… Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) had reportedly raised concerns to the CIA about the techniques in February 2003.

Read the full report.

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