Republicans Appropriating Torture

As I reported some weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi suggested one way the Bush Administration worked around the intelligence committees on torture and wiretapping was via the Appropriations Committees.

Q: Does this call into question the value of the briefing then, if they are not telling you fully…

Speaker Pelosi. I have questioned the values of the briefings over and over and over again. We only know what they choose to tell us and the manner and time in which they tell us. And that is why when people are talking about – whether they are talking about torture, or whether they are talking about wiretapping, or whatever you are talking about, we really have to have a change now in how Congress can do its oversight, because we expect and demand the truth.

And that’s why I, when I became Speaker, established this joint committee between the Appropriations Committee and the Intelligence Committee, because the fact is they really were not fully briefing the Intelligence Committee. And they have to answer to the Appropriations Committee because that’s where their funding comes from.

It is a long story, it’s an evolution. It used to be the Intelligence Committee – you couldn’t appropriate unless the Intelligence Committee authorized. It was almost effectively an appropriation. Over time the Intelligence in the Bush years became part of supplementals so there was absolutely no sharing of information. They would just stick the request in the supplementals. We said, "Okay, if they are going right to appropriations, we will have members of the Intelligence Committee serve in this hybrid committee, part Intelligence, part Appropriations." [my emphasis]

Now, the Appropriations briefing for torture actually came much later than it did for wiretapping (three years after the start of the program, rather than immediately after). But look at what CIA’s amazingly self-serving list of briefings describes having happened:

October 18, 2005: Interrogation techniques briefed. Ted Stevens, Thad Cochran

September 19, 2006: Briefing on full detainee program, including the 13 EITs. Bill Young, John Murtha (John Murtha did not stay for EIT portion of briefing)

October 11, 2007: The Director discussed the number of detainees subjected to EITs and discussed EITs. John Murtha

First, note the timing of these. The first Appropriations briefing took place during the debate on the Detainee Treatment Act, at a time when there were a significant number of Republican-only briefings: two for Fristie, one for McCain, one for Duncan Hunter, one for Crazy Pete Hoekstra, and the briefing for "Appropriations." 

But they on briefed the Republicans in charge of Defense Appropriations–not the Democrats. 

More interesting, though, is the specific timing. The briefing took place about two weeks after the Senate voted in overwhelming numbers to support the McCain Amendment: a 90-9 vote, purportedly ending torture at least with the military. Two of the nine people to vote the pro-torture stance? Toobz Stevens and Thad Cochran, who just two weeks later got a briefing on torture techniques.

Nancy Pelosi says the Bush Administration was sneaking stuff through on appropriations lines. And just two weeks after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to prohibit torture, two of the pro-torture Republicans–the two that happened to control the military’s purse strings–got their very own briefing on torture. 

Then there’s a briefing of the House Armed Services Appropriations Leaders in September 2006–after Bush has purportedly brought all the high value deatinees to Gitmo and ended torture. Yet they’re still briefing all the torture techniques. Only, somehow, John Murtha doesn’t happen to stick around long enough to hear about the torture techniques. It’s not until a full year later that Murtha gets a briefing on the torture techniques (interestingly enough, directly from Michael Hayden). 

Now, the timing of both of these briefings is suspicious. At a time when Congress is trying to reel in torture, the defense appropriators get briefed on techniques that have purportedly been halted. But even more suspicious is the way that just Republicans got briefed on these techniques.

It sure does raise questions about what Cheney was sneaking through in his appropriations, huh?

47 replies
  1. phred says:

    Good to see you here this morning EW : ) I was having fun last night lining up the dates in the briefings pdf with your torture timeline. I noticed that the briefings nearest the DTA were after the DTA passed which puzzled me last night, but now it makes sense in light of the appropriations angle.

    Can you (or Mary, hint hint ; ) refresh my memory on the DTA and MCA? I thought in both instances McCain had left a good bit of wiggle room for the CIA to keep torturing, while paying lip service to banning inhumane treatment and (for the MCA) requiring adherence to the Army Field Manual (Appendix M and all) by the DoD. Am I misremembering these things? I have been operating under the impression that McCain capitulated to BushCo on torture (particularly in the run up to the MCA when Graham, Warner and McCain all caved on their opposition after their WH tete-a-tete).

    If that’s the case, then McCain’s very own briefing in 2005 makes his pre-MCA capitulation even more damning imo. Since by the summer/fall 2006 (pre-MCA, a time when McCain opposed the MCA) he had been briefed… ooo, wait a sec, I just went back to the briefings doc to double check who briefed McCain in late October 2005 and it says… “Not Available”. Well, isn’t that handy. So many details when Dems were briefed, but they are not available for McCain or for the Stevens/Cochran briefing also that month or for Frist and Hunter (both in Nov. 2005)… I wonder if the briefers were the CIA accountants telling them how much dough they needed to keep the dungeons running ; )

    • emptywheel says:

      Your memory is correct–there was quite a bit of wiggle room for CIA in DTA.

      Also, as respect to timing, remember that while the amendment passed the Senate on October 5, the conference committee for it was much later–December 20, IIRC. Cheney was working the whole time to loosen it up, even before Bush’s signing statement.

      I just find it absolutely incredibly damning that they did all those GOP-only briefings.

      • phred says:

        Thanks EW. That’s what I thought…

        So what do you make of the Briefer “Not Available” occurrences in the document? That information is only “not available” for the occasions in 2005 I mentioned above, plus two briefings in March 2005 to Gang 4 folks, plus one other briefing 9-19-2006 to Bill Young (with John Murtha only participating in part of the briefing). How can that information be “not available” if the CIA put this list together from their records and recollections? It’s not redacted, so it’s not classified, so who are they covering for?

        • klynn says:

          How can that information be “not available” if the CIA put this list together from their records and recollections? It’s not redacted, so it’s not classified, so who are they covering for?

          (my emphasis)

          The question of the hour.

          One way to answer “that” might be to create a “media leaks” timeline. Perhaps from 9-11 up to present time.

          If this is a CIA leak, we are in a world of hurt as far as our national security from an intell perspective. We have better minds here.

          Which brings me to the question, is this a CIA leak? Or just made to look like one?

          • phred says:

            Another way to answer the question is… what committees were McCain, Frist, Young, Stevens, Cochran, and Hunter on? In other words, what did Team Cheney need these guys to do for them? Was it solely money (the appropriations angle?) or might there have been briefers whose identity would have pointed directly to Team Cheney? I don’t know, but it strikes me as odd given all the details elsewhere that this small collection of briefings mysteriously had no information on who the briefers were…

            • klynn says:

              I agree. The interesting part is that Appropriations Committees and “blanket purchase agreements” have an interesting way of working together.

              I never learned of the outcome of this investigation in the Dept. of Interior from May 2004?

              POGO may be a good source for addressing this relationship between “blanket purchase agreements” and Appropriations Committees.

              We could actually have had Appropriations approve $$$ through a “blanket purchase agreement” if I understand correctly.

              The Appropriations Committees in the U.S. House and Senate are responsible for allocating funds for the following budget or ‘fiscal’ year.

              The Constitution grants Congress the power to appropriate stating, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law…” The power to appropriate is exclusively a legislative power. The executive branch may not spend more than the amount appropriated and it may only spend funds for the purposes established by Congress.

              Still, the President of the United States has an important role in the appropriations process. He presents a budget ‘request’ to the Congress and has the constitutional power to approve or veto entire measures.

              The Appropriations Committees are divided into subcommittees, to produce spending bills for their respective jurisdictions.

              The federal fiscal year starts on October 1 of the previous year. For example, the 2008 fiscal year (FY08) begins on October 1, 2007.

              The annual appropriations cycle traditionally begins in the first week of February, when the President submits his budget request to Congress.

              The Appropriations Subcommittees draft and introduce appropriations bills. Each bill is amended or ‘marked up’ by the Subcommittee Members, usually during May and June, and finally approved and referred to the full Appropriations Committees in June or July.

              The full Appropriations Committees consider, ‘mark up’ and then approve the revised legislation, and provide an Appropriations Report including directions for Federal Departments and Agencies.

              The appropriations bills then move to the floors of the House and Senate, where amendments may be considered, before the bills are either approved or rejected. By tradition, the House considers their appropriations bills first. Members of the House and Senate generally like to get this done before the August recess.

  2. radiofreewill says:

    It’s going to be really funny if you take the very list that the Goopers are using to attack Pelosi, and instead beat the Hell out of Them with it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, well, seeing as how many on the left are accepting GOP spin on it as gospel in spite of the clear language of hte document AND the obvious inaccuracies of it doesn’t give me high hopes. And I’m supposed to be hanging with fambly this weekend, so it might have to wait until Tuesday.

      • radiofreewill says:

        Definitely take time off and hang with the fam!

        Just put a couple of fish in the water, as the submariners say, before you go party!

        Then, Bust open a Beamish, check your watch from time to time, listening for the sound of metal opening-up like an explosive can of pork and beans, and then – after you’ve laughed and enjoyed some quality family time – come back to view the Sinking GOP, along with the rest of US, in your innertoobz periscope!

        Have fun with it!

        Thanks for all that you do – you called this one right on!

  3. BillE says:

    Couple of questions:

    Are appropriations public, are there classified parts and if so what has been brought to daylight in the DTA timeframe.

    Cheney also talked about the presnit had the ability to redirect appropriated funds, is that part of this?

    What were the relevant signing statements and possible pixie dust around this time period.

    So much for the permanent republican majority, torture they can eat it.

  4. pmorlan says:

    The release of the CIA log and the not so subtle hint about dragging Democrats into any investigation that was given to Holder yesterday is actually good news. It sounds like Republicans are very nervous that this thing is not going to fade away like the establishment media have been pushing for so long. I think they believe that there is a real chance that this thing could blow wide open. And the more they try to prevent that from happening through threats and other underhanded tricks the more likely it will happen.

    • ghostof911 says:

      The release of the CIA log and the not so subtle hint about dragging Democrats into any investigation that was given to Holder yesterday is actually good news.

      It is indeed very good news. Complicit Democrats, no matter who they are, need to go down with the worst of Cheyney’s gang. Good riddance, traitors.

  5. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Thanks Marcy! Now, Relax already…The last thing this country (Lake Country) needs is for you to burn out!

  6. klynn says:

    Thanks for your last two posts (plus bmaz). It is amazing that these leaks are not even considering the timelines they are spinning. The focus seems to be on the message, not the logic.

    I linked to this Scott Horton interview from 4/23 in the last post and will add it here.

  7. pmorlan says:

    I thought it was very interesting that, according to this log, all of the current GOP leadership in the Senate were supposedly out of the loop on torture (Lott, McConnell, Kyl, Hutchinson, Cornyn and Ensign). According to the log Harry Reid was first briefed 9/6/06. You know that McConnell had to have been briefed at some point, so when did that happen and why isn’t it in the logs?

    I also don’t hear McConnell talk about the torture issue yet he is constantly talking about not closing Guantanamo.

  8. Mary says:

    If you read the preface of Dodd’s Nuremberg book, he talks about how he and a couple of other Senators went to Reid to push for the party to whip hard to get at least a filibuster on the MCA.

    Reid, who we now know was briefed on torture in Sept 06, flat out killed their effort. He swore to them that he’d already gone around and that they were nowhere close and it wasn’t doable. Dodd shows how angry he and Leahy were later as it came out that Reid blew smoke at them and the numbers were so close that a little strongarming would have made all the difference.

    I agree that on a “scale” approach, the number of Republican only briefings were telling as to scale and the McCain briefing was really telling – the Republicans were very very very bad. But while on the scale approach the Dems were less bad, when you view their function as not only the opposition party but the party whose constituents actually gave a damn on the issue, they were more appalling in their “less bad” scale.

    I put below why I don’t buy into the saving grace issue for Pelosi being whether or not she did or did not get briefed on a specific application.

    As she sat back and, despite her Constitutional privileges, said not one word during the abu ghraib blow up about the fact that given classified briefings she had received on things the Admin had obtained legal authorizations for, there needed to be a more thorough investigation of what info passed down the chain and more briefings to Congress about what the President was actually doing with respect to detainees (all things that she could probably get by with saying OFF the floor, but absolutely privileged on the floor) etc – I’m just disgusted by her. I admit to bias in that I’ve thought since before she took impeachment “off the table” that they couldn’t be that bad at their jobs unless there was involvement and once she did so publically and vociferously take impeachment off the table, I was personally convinced of her involvement and most of what hppened in 2007 and 2008 only made me more convinced.

    • DWBartoo says:


      In every particular!

      Thank you, Mary, Pelosi deserves NO ‘passes’, none.

      At some point, elected officials are required to share with their constituents information critically important to those consitituents.

      Pelosi famously told us, “You don’t know the half of it.”

      Why, Mrs. Pelosi is that so?

      And precisely what, Mrs. Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, have you done to insure that we, the people, do learn, in timely fashion, what we need to know.

      Don’t you suspect, Mrs. Pelosi, that being informed that our nation is doing very questionable, even illegal and un-Constitutional things, is important for the people in whose name such things are being done, to know of these things?

      Equally, Mrs. Pelosi you and your colleagues had and have a fundamental duty to insist upon knowing what is going on. That is, precisely, your job.

      And you, Mrs. Pelosi, chose political expediency, the easy and comfortable route of not using the most powerful tool at your disposal to find out just what was going on, and in the process have shown yourself more complicit than not.

      But you have plenty of company, Mrs. Pelosi, for almost the entire political class has joined you in looking the other way and displaying incredible ineptitude at many things as well as treating the rest of us, who are, in fact, your employers, with almost total disdain.

      The shameful history of these past ten years is testament to your collective ‘wisdom’, ‘dedication’, ‘competence’, and ‘effort’. There is little to be proud of, especially for those in positions of ‘leadership’.

    • Leen says:

      I have often felt the same way about Pelosi with less depth of understanding of the specifics that you and others here are so obviously aware of. Pelosi always seems to be protecting herself and others who need to be held accountable for whatever degree of crimes they have committed. Taking “impeachment off of the table” (for serious crimes) was so telling at least in my book.

      • selise says:

        the only thing i followed semi-carefully in the house during the 110th congress was the fisa matter. that is where i learned to deeply distrust pelosi. imo she is the master of pretending to be a progressive ally while working the system to accomplish the opposite.

      • Sand says:

        I agree. The system is corrupt to its core.

        Being Speaker just seems to be the figure-head to funnel whatever basically needs to be funnelled. e.g.

        Congress Delivers Promised Israel Aid Bump Despite Budget Deadlock
        Move Bypasses Normal Appropriation Process

    • Sand says:

      re MCA — any background info on what Sherrod Brown said to Reid, or what Reid said to Sherrod Brown which made the guy vote for the MCA? Really strange that.

      Also, background info on why did Schumer and Feinstein ok’ed — I’m not sure waterboarding is torture “Mukasey.”

      Are you guys going to give us the bigger picture?

      • Mary says:

        Brown was in the House for that vote, but what he has said is that he voted for it because John McCain told him to and who would know better than John McCain?

        A theme he didn’t revive in the 08 Presidential election.

        • Sand says:

          Thanks… my bad… I remember how really strange it was — this ’supposed progressive’ voting for one of the most heinous bills to come out of congress — And him going to McCain [R] for advice eh! — jeezzze. [wonder what he was taking that day?]

  9. pmorlan says:

    Looks like Cheney did another friendly interview. Look at him trying to pretend that he supports the Constitution and true Constitutional principles.

    As a country we MUST thoroughly discredit the unitary executive theory or we will end up with another Bush White House or maybe one that is even worse.

    “I think it would be a mistake for us to moderate. This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas…what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles,” he said. “You know, when you add all those things up the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most us aren’t.”

  10. dosido says:

    Thank you for another daily reminder of why I hate the Bush administration so much.

    BTW, I picked up a raggy copy of the SF Examiner yesterday (my daughter reads it on her BART ride). I appalled to see not one but TWO pro-torture LOEs. One called human rights activists “bleeding hearts” and the other sees torture as being “tough” on terrorists and in relative morality less horrific than tying a bomb onto oneself and blowing people up.

    Excuse me while I bang my head against my wall.

  11. peterboy says:

    food for thought. in the NYT today is the obituary of COL. Harold Fischer, USAF, who was captured and tortured by the Chinese during the Korean War.
    He confessed to germ warfare. The techniques used on him seem to parallel but not be as extensive as those the US used under Bushco.
    He said of his confession:
    “I will regret what I did in that cell the rest of my life. But let me say this: it was not really me — not Harold E. Fischer Jr. — who signed that paper. It was a mentality reduced to putty.”

    linkee, here:…..cher& st=cse

      • TheraP says:

        Here are some quotes from my own blogs:

        The point of the torture was personality breakdown. And its willing designers were psychologists.

        Personality breakdown is not temporary. Personality breakdown is, in effect, a state of permanent mental torture, where nightmares and flashbacks and every other sort of PTSD symptom becomes one’s daily life. All of that happening while the person remains jailed in secret, subjected to isolation, humiliation, degradation and deprivations of every sort. Induced mental illness of the worst possible sort – and left to languish in solitary confinement with no legal recourse.

        And this:

        How can I get you to see and feel what deadness is? How show you loss of self? The only NOW as existence-for-torture. The torturer is the mirror. Please the torturer. Or die. The torturer needs you for the torture. Needs you to tell. But you’ve forgotten. Nothing’s there. Words fail. They don’t come. You’re only as good as the next thing you can tell. Tell something. Anything. Find the words. You can see they expect something. What is it they expect? They never tell you. They ask. You don’t remember anymore – if you ever did. Did you ever have a life outside this room?

        And this:

        I was discussing this with a colleague who used to be an experimental psychologist. He wondered if those who designed torture had worked with Seligman. He told me he used to do that kind of work. But he gave it up, because:

        He was doing an experiment. There were two groups. Some were fed much less than usual – on a strict schedule. Others were fed much less than usual – with no rhyme or reason. Random meals. Those in the second group died. All of them.
        They were only rats.
        But he decided to retrain. Become a therapist.

  12. Bluetoe2 says:

    Unless those responsible are held accountable the entire nation has appropriated torture thereby losing whatever moral authority it had and losing it’s soul.

  13. plunger says:

    Welcome to the Soviet Union – and nationalized “press.”

    Incrementally, with each new revelation, it becomes painfully obvious that ABC News is a propaganda arm of (George HW Bush’s) CIA. Shouldn’t the Agency have to reveal the names of its agents inside the major news organizations? What could be more dangerous to our Constitutional Republic than a steady stream of intentional disinformation? Propaganda is absolutely illegal.

    “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when
    everything the American public believes is false.”

    – William Casey, CIA Director (from first staff meeting, 1981)

    Media ownership study ordered destroyed
    Sept 14, 2006

    ‘Every last piece’ destroyed

    Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that “every last piece” of the report be destroyed. “The whole project was just stopped – end of discussion,” he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC’s Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

    “You can’t tell any more the difference between what’s propaganda and what’s news.”

    FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein
    15 August, 2006

  14. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    It sure does raise questions about what Cheney was sneaking through in his appropriations, huh?

    Part of Cheney’s bureaucratic success appears to stem from his skill in getting things into black budgets. That’s surely a cornerstone of his power. But that leads to other financial shenanigans, which must surely all link up in dark fetid places.

  15. Funnydiva2002 says:

    Hey, Marcy, Wheelies
    Wow. You are Teh Awesome for staying with this. Some days it’s overwhelmingly disheartening and depressing just to keep up with your great work. I can only imagine that actually digging through the documents and connecting the dots is at least as tough.


  16. timr says:

    I believe that every dem or progressive should refuse to cover for any dem in congress that knew about the torture going on and stood by and did nothing. If it went as high as Pelosi-and I believe that it did-then make her pay. Same with the rethugs. Starting with cheney who is actually boasting about waterboardig.(ya know, having observed cheney back in the Ford years and after, then during the shrub years to now, I have to think that all those heart attacks did something to his brain, because after he became VP his overall personality totally changed. His current interviews also prove my point.–Also, did you ever do a side by side look at shrub when he was Tx gov to after his prez election. Looks like two totally different people, strange)and prosecute everyone involved, rethug or dem. Sure it would be hard, but if you are only willing to stad up for the law when it suits you, then you have no principles. Look at LBJ. He knew that by forcing civil rights down thethroats of congress that the dem party would take a big hit. But he did what was right and so the dems lost the presidentcy for most of the next 40 years. The congress dems did what was right about Nixon, and paid for that. The gop forced impeachment on Clinton-payback for nixon?-and not to many years later lost control of congress and it looks right now like they will continue to lose seats in 2010.

  17. frederic says:

    Nancy Pelosi is a liar. She knew damn well about the water boarding and chose to do nothing about it.

  18. Seventhson says:

    It looks like al this Pelosi mess is is just more Bush era lies to cover their asses:

    There is a thread at democratic underground which details the fact that the CIA NOW says that they cannot be sure that the memos related to the briefings are even accurate.

    Everyone demonizing Pelosi needs to check this out before buying the propaganda and threats from the rethuglican media machine.



  19. Seventhson says:

    For some reason my link posted to democratic underground is not working but here is the text of that post which says that the Bush CIA may have been lying in their briefing to Pelosi

    Source: The Plum Line

    The Plum LineGreg Sargent’s blog
    CIA Admits That Info About Torture Briefings For Dems May Not Be Accurate

    As I noted below, newly released documents appear to show that according to the CIA, officials briefed Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats back in 2002 about the use of torture techniques on terror suspects.

    But a letter that accompanied these documents, written by the head of the CIA, appears to clearly concede that the information in the docs about who was briefed and when may not be accurate or reliable.

    Republicans are pointing to the documents — which were produced by the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence, and sent to select members of Congress — to charge that Pelosi and other Dems have been lying about what they knew about waterboarding and when.

    But the docs were accompanied by a letter from CIA chief Leon Panetta that appears to suggest the CIA can’t promise that the info is right. The letter was sent along with the documents to GOP Rep Pete Hoekstra, a leading critic of Dems on torture, and Dem Rep Silvestre Reyes, the chairman of the intelligence committee.

    I’ve obtained the letter, and a PDF is right here.

    Read more: http://theplumline.whorunsgov……-th… /

  20. nadezhda says:

    For those keeping score over the weekend, Rockefeller’s office has emailed this PM a response to Zach at TPM — see my comment on earlier EW post here.

  21. glitterscale says:

    I have a question: when Lamar Alexander rather pointedly threatened both Pelosi and our new AG was he not guilty of extortion?

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