Graham: They Claimed to Have Briefed Before Torture, Did Not

I’ve got to correct something I said yesterday about Bob Graham. I reported that Graham said that CIA had given him two erroneous dates for briefings. That was wrong (RawStory reported the number correctly, though). They gave erroneous dates for three briefings.

The difference is critical, because it means the CIA tried to claim it had briefed Graham on torture in April 2002, which would have put it in compliance with the National Security Act. But Graham, by consulting his trusty notebooks, proved that claim to be false. 

Graham also notes that the CIA is obligated to tell the entire intelligence committees, not just the leadership. 

You think maybe someone besides us here and MSNBC will start focusing on CIA’s failure to comply with the requirement that it brief Congress on its actions?

David Shuster: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the CIA misleads Congress all the time and has at least one big-name Democrat backing her up, Former Senator Bob Graham who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee following the 9/11 attacks and he joins us live this morning. Senator Graham, House Speaker Pelosi said specifically when she was briefed in September 2002, she was told that waterboarding specifically was not being used. What were you told during that same time period, September 2002?

Graham: David, when I was briefed which was about three weeks after the Speaker, the subject of waterboarding did not come up. Nor did the treatment of Abu Zubaydah or any other specific detainee.

Shuster: And the reason that’s significant is because by the time of your briefing and the Speaker’s briefing, we now knew Zubaydah had been waterboarded some 83 times. So again, was there a requirement, was it incumbent upon the CIA, to tell you as the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee or Ranking Member, was there an obligation on them to tell you about it if it was going on?

Graham: Yes, they’re obligated to tell the full Intelligence Committee, not just the leadership. This was the same time within the same week, in fact, that the CIA was submitting its National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which proves so erroneous that we went to war, have had thousands of persons killed and injured as a result of misinformation.

Shuster: So what were they telling you that fall in 2002 about what they were and were not doing with terror suspects that were in US custody?

Graham: Nothing very remarkable. They were discussing the fact that they had detainees and that they were interrogating detainees. But nothing such as that they were using these extreme torture techniques that would have made it a surprising briefing.

Shuster: Now, there are some who suggest that by either providing false information to Speaker Pelosi or actually withholding information from her, withholding information from you, that those CIA briefers broke the law. What’s your view on that?

Graham: That’s for some legal authority to decide. I can only state what I experienced.

Shuster: What do you make of this whole sort of kerfuffle, and that’s probably not the right word for it, between the Speaker and yourself and the CIA? What’s going on? Do you think the CIA was simply trying to, I don’t know, push things sort of under the rug or maybe that they were post dating or taking the documents and writing things in after the fact that hadn’t actually happened in these briefings? What do you make of all of this?

Graham: David, I think fundamentally, what’s happening is there’s an attempt underway to try to shift it, the discussion away from what’s really important, and that is did the United States use torture, was that within the law, who authorized it, and what were the consequences of that — those are the important issues. Whether the Speaker or anybody else knew about it is, frankly, sort of off on the edges.

Shuster: Now, a lot of people who are not familiar with you Senator Graham, might say ‘how could Bob Graham know what was going on, what was said to him, nearly seven years ago, September 27th, 2002?’ Explain the sort of notebooks that you keep and why they convinced you that in fact, the CIA had not told you certain information at that crucial briefing?

Graham: Well, the notebooks played another role in this. The CIA when I asked them, what were the dates these briefings took place, gave me four dates. And I went back to my spiral notebooks and a daily schedule that I keep and found, and the CIA concurred, that in three of those four dates, there was no briefing held. That raises some questions about the bookkeeping of the CIA. Under the rules of clandestine information, I was prohibited from keeping notes of what was actually said during that briefing other than a brief summation that it had to do with the interrogation of detainees.

Shuster: And finally, Senator Graham, do you believe there should be an investigation, either a special council or truth commission to find out exactly what was going on at the CIA at the time?

Graham: Yes, and more broadly than just what was going on at the CIA — who was directing the CIA. The CIA is not a rogue organization. It responds to directions from higher authorities — who were those authorities? What was the basis of their action and what was their motivation? Yes, I think there should be like the 9/11 commission a high level totally impartial group of Americans who will have the respect of the American people, review all those questions.

Shuster: Former Florida Senator Bob Graham. And Senator, thanks for joining us this morning.

Graham: Thank you, David.

44 replies
  1. phred says:

    Wow. Shuster did a great job with that interview, really really well done. Keep after ‘em EW, with you leading the way and MSNBC pushing it into the mainstream, the rest of the Village will not be able to continue to ignore and misconstrue this story.

    • dosido says:

      Shuster did a great job this a.m. of putting a “political analyst” in his place when he asked him if he would support, like others in the GOP, investigations into the whole mess. The analyst tried to keep the topic on Pelosi’s credibility, and Shuster just firmly pointed out the bigger picture was that these interrogations were NOT designed to “keep America safe” but to create intelligence and justify invading Iraq. Isn’t that issue a higher priority than Pelosi’s political career? Bam!

        • dosido says:

          Yes, it was a case in point of the Graham quote Karnak highlights @15. The guy had a big canary eating grin until Shuster took care of him. He wasn’t smiling when they all signed off.

          What I love about Shuster is he will keep his eye on the story itself, rather than assist with political optics like Joe the Schmoe.

        • phred says:

          Somedays I think I should watch more TV ; ) I would have enjoyed seeing the grin wiped off that guys face ; )

        • dosido says:

          No don’t watch more TV. Come here and go to C&L for the best bits.

          It was an awesome “so we look forward to you putting national security ahead of partisan politics” invitation/smackdown moment of clarity.

          I had to turn away from Kelly O’Donnell and what’s her name Alex and their murder and mayhem and DC gossip stories. I always perk up and pay attn to DS. He da man!

        • foothillsmike says:

          Had on MSNBC w/ Mrs Greenspan. That person can listen to a clip turn around and totally mangle what was said in the retelling.

        • Rayne says:

          Wasn’t Mitchell horrible? it was like listening to the crap I heard from O’Donnell/Lauer/Bond on the Today Show all over again, completely skewed around what Nancy knew and when did she know it rather than the silence of many Republicans who were fully briefed and assented without any complaint or concern.

        • dosido says:

          It’s so friggin’ high school gossipy cliquey icky sometimes. It’s not analysis or news.

        • dosido says:

          I’ve been on the Let’s Throw Mrs. Greenspan a Retirement Party for a while now. There is always a ten second delay in responding to guest comments too. Nice lady…let her host some fundraising events or something.

  2. klynn says:

    Thanks for the post EW. I know the date issues were a needed update, but the questions remain the same. Shuster must enjoy reading here!

    (One little edit, sentence before the interview block quote should read, “..besides us here…”

  3. TheraP says:

    nothing such as that they were using these extreme torture techniques that would have made it a surprising briefing.

    Uses the word “torture” and indicates that had he been apprised of torture, then he’d have had that “surprising” (shocking) kind of special memory of the event.

    He is such a credible witness! He names the crimes as torture. “Extreme” torture. He points to what the important questions are.

    It’s as if he’s tutoring the media: Here’s what to ask.

  4. Mary says:

    which would have put it in compliance with the National Security Act
    I’m not meaning to pick nits and I think that they were trying to prime their position on the dates, but a breifing to Graham in 2002 would have only put them less out of compliance with the NSA, still not in compliance.

    A few of the other things that would ahve been needed for compliance, even if they had briefed on their made up April dates, would be (i)an actual presidential finding or directive; (ii) generally contemporaneous briefing to the full gang of 8; (iii) statement from the president as to why the briefing was being limited to less than the full committee;(iv) reasonably prompt follow up of briefing to full committees; (v) briefings that actually briefed on all relevant information and aspects; and (vi)insuring that any non-covert activities were briefed to the full committees period – no Gang of 8 (or 4, or a few gang members plus staffers as seconds, or whatever)

    I’ve probably missed a few, but there’s a few.

    Here’s something else IMO that is very important and the crossovers (Judiciary and Intel committees) like Feingold and Whitehouse should push on it IMO.

    Requesting and receiving issuance of DOJ legal opinions on the limits, or lack of limits, on CIA powers just isn’t a covert activity. No how, no way. They very much need to address the aspect of CIA being able to go to OLC and request opinions on actions that it thinks are likely enough to be in violation of US law that it wants an opinion, and then, instead of having them treated like OLC opinions that interpret law for reliance by the Exec branch and are made public, keep them secret and never notify anyone.

    I gotta say, IMO, the request for and issuance of the opinions was an activity that required briefing and there was no “gang of 8″ out for that briefing IMO. If someone finds wiggle room out on that, then it needs to be clamped down on in any legislation that they may try to come up with to address the mess.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I thought it was illegal to lie to Congress, and illegal to use taxpayer funds to mount a disinformation campaign on Americans. Or does that, like interrogation standards, only apply to the military?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Or is it not a lie when you knowingly or recklessly give someone false information, but then tell them it’s not accurate – or that the recipient of information has to determine whether ANY of it is accurate.

      Seems to me, reading Lewis Carroll is mandatory for this as well as the Bush administration. We’re still down that rabbit hole, Mr. Change We Won’t See.

    • Mary says:

      Illegal, but we can’t prosecute anyone who has a piece of paper that says it is legal. Because Obama says so.

  6. Rayne says:

    Amusing. The right hand at NBC does one thing — gives Cheney’s talking points uncontested airing on the Today Show — while the left hand at MSNBC does just the opposite.

    Now if only they could get both sides of the story together in one place where the public could see the flaws in Cheney’s talking points.

  7. TheraP says:

    To extract from Graham’s tutorial:

    * Did the United States use torture?
    * Was that within the law?
    * Who authorized it?
    * What were the consequences of that?
    * Questions about the bookkeeping of the CIA.
    * What was going on at the CIA?
    * Who was directing the CIA?
    * Who were those authorities?
    * What was the basis of their action and what was their motivation?

    Taken from his exact words above.

    • Mary says:

      I was in “pre-agreement” with him – to many real questions not getting asked and answered. I do think some of those have to do with Congress, but not the ones that are being paraded out by the GOP and MSM.

  8. dosido says:

    The other weird thing is Rove is accusing Pelosi of being “an accomplice to torture”. OK, now it’s torture? and now it’s bad? It’s OK to prosecute this stuff if it brings Pelosi down?

    I’m not trying to protect anyone – I think the truth should come out and let the chips fall where they may. Right now Pelosi has way more credibility than the CIA for goodness sake. She may be on shaky ground, but the CIA has absolutely no standing at all.

  9. pmorlan says:

    It was nice to see David Shuster on MSNBC today because unlike David Gregory, Shuster actually talks about Graham backing up Nancy Pelosi’s comments about the CIA not briefing on waterboarding.

    Gregory appeared on Morning Joe this morning and as usual he distorted the issue. Ron Paul was also on Morning Joe and made some interesting remarks but then Scarborough changed the subject. Check it out.

  10. pinson says:

    Do we know whether there were any other senate folks attending the same briefings as Graham? Since Goss is out there attempting to impugn Pelosi’s veracity – and the idiots in the corporate press play right along – I wonder if we’re going to get Pat Roberts or someone else trying to call Graham a liar. Since Graham’s already got the CIA to admit they’re making shit up, seems like it’s going to be a tougher task than beating up on the Speaker.

      • pinson says:

        Thanks Dalybean – hadn’t gotten to the Plumline yet this morning. Work’s kinda busy….

      • damagedone says:

        So if Senator Shelby was “fully informed” then why did he not protest waterboarding? They are trying to say Pelosi should have protested. Why did Senator Shelby not protest? Does he condone torture? The Japenese were executed for waterboarding for in WWII. Just because he is a Republican does not mean he gets to argue both sides.

  11. karnak12 says:

    EW excellent post. Here’s the key I see:

    Graham: David, I think fundamentally, what’s happening is there’s an attempt underway to try to shift it, the discussion away from what’s really important, and that is did the United States use torture, was that within the law, who authorized it, and what were the consequences of that — those are the important issues. Whether the Speaker or anybody else knew about it is, frankly, sort of off on the edges. (my bold

    I’ll have to hand it to this guy Graham. He’s sharp

    • JohnJ says:

      (snoopy dance)….go Bob, go Bob

      They thought they silenced him by setting him up with those leaks. He’s one of those rare politicians that actually has integrity.

      Expect some kinda smear to appear about him; he was a Florida pol which means he WILL have something embarrassing in his political past.

      Good luck with all those notes he takes.

  12. greenbird4751 says:

    for the first time in my adult life, i’m sorry i never served in the military. i’ve only had one child, but i know what childbirth and childrearing are; but i’ve never before been overwhelmed by the sense of guarding my country as i am now. i honestly am prepared to put my life on the line, for the life of the constitution, and against all enemies.
    a great part of this i credit to your service, marcy, and your tenacity in presenting your thoughts.

    • BillyP says:

      Why not dedicate yourself to your country by working for peace and not for the promotion of bloodshed. I’m sure Marcy would agree that is a better channeling of your enthusiasm.

    • Rayne says:

      As Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

      Being a fully informed citizen willing to be engaged in monitoring government and voting regularly is more than a majority of our citizens are willing to muster with frequency — and one such fully informed citizen could be enough to make the difference if an election is tight, or make a difference with a single phone call to a member of Congress.

    • dosido says:

      I’m already thinking ahead to the next family gathering where I will hear how awful Pelosi is. During our last gathering, a family member told me how “political” and “unreliable” the CIA is (per Cheney talking points and rocky history with this agency).

      Now I anticipate that the CIA is the bedrock of integrity vs. the Evil Speaker of the House. Bwahaahaha!

  13. reader says:

    So … the rules are:

    1) people were supposed to be informed;
    2) if informed, they were supposed to object.
    3) if someone was informed and they did not object then they are, according to no less an authority than Rove, ”complicit” in torture.

    And the questions are:

    1) who was informed?
    2) when were they informed?
    3) what did they do about it?

    Now …
    * in order to ”get” Pelosi, the R’s will say the CIA is unimpeachable, they were fully informed, Pelosi is lying, and Pelosi is a war criminal.

    EXCEPT, there is just one itty bitty little problem …
    If the R’s are going to claim they were informed and that is the ”proof” that Pelosi was informed ….

    THEN we need to get rid of various R’s as well as Pelosi.

    I’m cool with that.

    Let’s see all the documents.
    Let’s get answers to all the questions.

  14. reader says:

    CNN breaking that Panetta says ”not the policy of CIA to mislead.”

    I’m sure you are on this EW, but wtf?
    Is this just to calm the staff over at CIA?
    And isn’t that stupid since it will be misused?

    Or is this just already being used as a new talking point against Pelosi?

  15. Chgo1945 says:

    Why does Pelosi say she was briefed on water boarding just denying that she was told that it had actually occurred? Is Pelosi calling Graham an old liar?

  16. robspierre says:

    The flap over Pelosi will be useful if it focuses the minds of Democratic politicians and makes them see that SOMEONE is going to be blamed and that, if they keep up with the constant bipartisan shuffle to the Right, then the Thugs are going to make that someone them.

    I think Pelosi has more credibility than managers at the CIA, but that is saying very little. Even if one had only the reports from the MSM, by 2002 or 2003, wouldn’t any semi-sentient being have at least suspected that the Bush people were torturing captives? The signs were everywhere in the rhetoric and in the administration’s general conduct in the runup to Iraq. Yet the members of the Congress club continue to act like they were shocked! shocked to find that illegal acts were going on!

    A Congressman needs to be either more conscientious/honest than that or more perceptive, in my opinion. Pelosi has still seriously sullied her reputation by letting this happen unchallenged.

  17. GREYDOG says:


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