Senator Bob Graham: The CIA Made Up Two Briefing Sessions

Bob Graham just appeared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show. In addition to repeating earlier reports that he was never briefed on waterboarding, Graham revealed that the first time he asked the CIA when he was briefed on torture, it claimed it had briefed him on two dates when no briefing took place. 

I didn’t get Graham’s exact quotes (and the quotes below are rough approximations), but when asked to respond to Philip Zelikow’s assertion that members of Congress from both parties had been briefed on this program, Graham said that when he asked the CIA when he had been briefed on the program, the CIA gave him the dates of four briefings, two in April 2002 and two in September 2002, when they claimed they had briefed him about the program. But after Graham consulted his own records, he pointed out that on two of those dates, he had not attended any briefing. After Graham pointed this out to the CIA, they conceded their own dates were incorrect.

Graham then went on to repeat his claim that he had no recollection of being told about waterboarding Zubaydah or anything else about extreme interrogation. 

In addition to repeating his earlier assertion that he would have remembered something that dramatic, Graham contextualized the briefing the CIA gave him–which occurred right in the middle of Graham’s complaints about the inaccuracy of the Iraq NIE (the briefing on September 27, 2002 would have shown up just a few days after the British released a White Paper on September 24, 2002 that publicized for the first time the yellocake claim). 

Occurred in September 2002, right in the middle of the NIE on Iraq where I was at open war with the Administration where I was at war with the Administration on the inaccuracies of that NIE. 

As Graham went on to point out, given the way the CIA was lying heavily to make the case for war against Iraq at the time, there’s no reason they should be trusted to tell the truth about the briefings they gave.

I’m a little surprised that Phil [Zelikow] would accept at face value on this subject when at the very same time they were telling us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 

Finally, Graham suggested that by briefing just two intell leaders at a time, it prevented those attending the briefings from comparing notes about what was heard; Graham has never even compared notes with Pelosi about what she got briefed three weeks earlier than Graham in September 2002. 

I was never in a briefing with House members.  According to the CIA report, I was only at the September 27 meeting with one other senator, and surprisingly with two staff members, which would have been unusual. 

The really damning thing, though, is the first point: CIA claimed Graham had been briefed on two days when no briefing occurred, which is not dissimilar from their claims that Jello Jay was briefed on February 4, 2003 when he didn’t attend the briefing in question.

The CIA is just making shit up about these briefings, even to the point of claiming there were briefings when none occurred. Can we set aside, now, the notion that the CIA’s own version of what it told Congress when has any credibility in the least?

67 replies
  1. JimWhite says:

    Do these dates line up with any of the “not available” notations for those doing the briefings? That would put a new meaning on why the briefer can’t be identified: it didn’t happen.

  2. emptywheel says:

    No. CIA doesn’t list the April dates at all in its list of torture briefings (the whole notion of April briefings is rather interesting for a number of reasons–if CIA had briefed it then you’d think they’d say so bc it might make them compliant with NSA, which they’re not).

    The “not available” briefings are all in 2005 and 2006.

    • fatster says:

      Yes, but does Panetta (and the entire O-team, for that matter) still have a sense of smell and can he/they figure out how to rescue this? Of course, we wish they’d just “come clean,” but . . .

      • MarkH says:

        There’s nothing Dems need to rescue. All this shows it was Bushie people at the CIA who either didn’t do the briefings to keep Dems in the dark or who were somehow incompetent.

  3. drational says:

    It would be poetic justice if, in their crazed haste to destroy all things related to torture, they erased all references to the real briefing dates. And because they have no ability to even approximate the truth, their clumsy “justifications” provoke enough anger to get them investigated.

    It also makes me wonder if the memo for Hoekstra was based upon “recollections of the events” rather than written records because the folks who put it together for Petey are political appointees no longer with access to CIA records….. In other words, Gossites and Tenetoids on the hook for contractor torture, rather than the career guys holding the records in Langley.

  4. drational says:

    and it may link to why Gonzo kept a safe at home for his notes; so he could be accurate in his defense after his office and old records were powned by a Dem appointee. George and Porter are stuck with “memories of the way we were”. bwahahaha.

  5. wavpeac says:

    Let’s see:

    1) It was no big deal, we didn’t torture “that” much or “that” severely.

    2) We don’t torture. Never tortured. Never hurt anyone…only saved lives.

    3) If we did torture, it was the democrats fault for not stopping us. And anyone who was tortured deserved it.

    It walks like a duck!! See, people who are innocent simply say “it wasn’t me, I didn’t do it, you have the wrong person.” …

  6. wavpeac says:

    I forgot to add, the truly guilty “defend the crime”. They defend the crime and cannot help to do so, because a part of the fabric of who they are believed they were right at the time they committed the crime. That little part comes out.

  7. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Will have to catch up later, but this really is striking:

    Graham then went on to repeat his claim that he had no recollection of being told about waterboarding Zubaydah or anything else about extreme interrogation.

    Since the GOP talking points (or should we call them lindsayShrillies?) seem to be anchored in smearing Pelosi with info that –as Durbin brilliantly pointed out yesterday — really made her more an ‘information hostage’ than an ‘information resource’ here’s hoping some smart reporters key in on this essential point.

    No doubt the GOP will claim that Bob Graham has a memory problem, but that dog won’t hunt.

  8. oregondave says:

    What’s your take on Zelikow’s credibility and integrity? Reading your previous post, I wondered why the 911 Commission didn’t seem to get it that the CIA was/had been torturing.

  9. phred says:

    Can I just say that I love the fact that Graham keeps careful records : )

    I hope his story gets wider distribution. The CIA pulled a fast one with that briefings list. I think it is high time that those who were briefed get official clearance to reveal exactly what they were told and when.

    • klynn says:

      Can I just say that I love the fact that Graham keeps careful records : )

      I hope his story gets wider distribution. The CIA pulled a fast one with that briefings list. I think it is high time that those who were briefed get official clearance to reveal exactly what they were told and when.

      Actually, I want the name of the supervisor at CIA who oversaw putting together the briefing list that was made public in order to play the public.

      • kayakbouy says:


        Bob Graham is a freak about records. He records everything including what he eats. There is a slate article that describes in detail how meticulous his record keeping is. If he doesn’t recall something, it is because it didn’t happen.

        • klynn says:

          Oh I know. That’s my point.

          And, Bob Graham is now in a position to demand the name of the CIA supervisor who compiled the briefing dates because CIA has hurt his professional image, they have started to walk into defamation of character or maybe libel.IANAL bmaz can give a better call on this.

          An organization like CIA, which is tasked with keeping records straight in terms of documentation, cannot state one day that someone was definitely at this meeting and that attendance at this meeting casts doubt on the person’s character, especially if it involves dialogue about torture.

          He should raise a big stink and people in his district should back him on it too. He deserved names of his accusers yesterday.

          The name of who supervised the compilation of that list will begin the unfolding of the lies.

          • klynn says:

            One last point. When Philip and Katherine Graham (Washington Post)are your brother and sister-in-law and your dad was in the FL state senate, my guess is the most valuable piece of advice given for survival was, “document your every action,” to protect yourself politically and professionally.

            I can tell you, when I went to DC to work, it was the first piece of advice given to me from a friend in the Ohio St. legislature.

            • JohnJ says:

              ya’ gotta see Florida politics to appreciate what it takes to actually do some good here, and in my opinion, Bob Graham tried.

              (doin’ the snoopy dance: Bob’s the man, Bob’s the man)

              gotta hit and run to work, I STILL haven’t caught up here geeez!

          • Leen says:

            Sounds like Graham has a great deal of bi partisan respect…and a great record keeper. Did the CIA really say very often that there were WMD’s in Iraq. I remember hearing that Tenet had said “slam dunk”

            That false intelligence stovepipe that Feith , Rhode, Cheney, Wolfowitz Luti, Wurmsers, etc had feeding the Whitehouse seemed to trump the CIA many times. How much did Hadley have to do with the flow of the false intelligence into Bush’s office?

            Will never forget when Graham was questioning the validity of the intelligence just before that 2002 mid term election. Along with former CIA analyst who seemed to be coming out of the wood before the invasion questioning the intelligence along with Scott Ritter

        • Waccamaw says:

          Six years ago that article was….being one myself, I just luvs me some anal-retentatives. Yuppers, the CIA picked the wrong guy to try to pull a sneak on wrt scheduling. *G*

    • alank says:

      It says as much in a wiki:

      He has a quirky habit of keeping a detailed log of his daily activities on color-coded notebooks, which some say may have cost him a spot on past vice-presidential tickets. He keeps all of these notes in a file cabinet arranged by month and year. A great champion for his home state, Graham always kept Florida orange juice on hand in his Senate office and was rarely seen without his trademark Florida tie.

      It’s a rather feeble-minded entry, but there it is.

  10. greenbird4751 says:

    what possibly came out in scooter’s trial that fitz “can’t speak about” but that pulls a stitch wrt plame’s outing? she was cia. she didn’t fabricate.

  11. Arbusto says:

    Regardless of any Congress critters claim of memory lapses or not being briefed, or the CIA ginning up briefing dates, the CIA played Congress like a fiddle, and just the way Congress wanted to be played; plausible deniability. That the CIA briefs were limited to two players was icing on the dis/misinformation game by the CIA/Bushco crime organization.

  12. cbl2 says:

    Speaker Pelosi just finished rather contentious weekly briefing – it was all about CIA briefings – clearly press corpse had a gotcha chubby

  13. maeme says:

    If anyone gets a chance to watch the WH briefing reporters giving their synopsis of Speaker Pelosi’s remarks to their network anchors and they are wrong — please call them on it — especially MSNBC — they have been twisting the facts –repeatedly!!! (except for a few reporters, i.e, David Shuster)

    Name the reporters that are not telling it like it is — because they have vested interests in covering for Goss, and Cheney and crew.

  14. klynn says:

    CIA picked the wrong guy to attempt a calendar “punk” on. The man is a walking diary of documentation of his every action in life.

    • cbl2 says:

      no kidding. are these really the guys we want to rely on for background research and analysis ??

      was it desperation or hubris ?

      • klynn says:

        I cannot imagine what kind of state our national security is in when we witness a situation like this. It is hubris. They somehow thought, if they said, because they are CIA, that they briefed, then people would be intimidated and would not check their records.

        This is precisely the reason Bob Graham was crazy at documenting. He knew a day like this would happen in his life and documenting would be his accountability.

        His personal documenting will actually blow this open.

  15. TheraP says:

    RE NY Times Ad (mentioned in previous thread):

    Ok. Took me forever but here’s the NY Times AD, as best I can put it up. Together with a preliminary accounting of all the lies.

    EW, you are always most welcome to any of my ideas. Steal with impunity! I am doing this for the cause, not for me. If there’s a way to put this up here and attack all of it, be my guest!

    Or I could do an Oxdown diary here with a link to that post. Any suggestions?

  16. klynn says:

    Thanks for this post EW. Bob Graham’s “never briefed” point is no small point in the big picture. It. Is. The. Turningpoint.

    Since you like timelines and Bob Graham is so meticulous with documenting his time, I can see you doing a prized interview.

    • TheraP says:

      If EW does interview Graham, please, please ask WHEN he had that “torture moment” – when the “lightbulb” went off in his head. Briefing? Photos? I’m interested.

  17. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Not entirely OT – just up at TPM, a follow-up by Wilkerson. Also at Washington Note. Featuring this:

    There was absolutely no policy priority attributed to al-Qa’ida by the Cheney-Bush administration in the months before 9/11. Counterterrorism czar Dick Clarke’s position was downgraded, al-Qa’ida was put in the background so as to emphasize Iraq, and the policy priorities were lowering taxes, abrogating the ABM Treaty and building ballistic missile defenses.

    Given the Judiciary Subcommittee revelations of yesterday, and Pelosi’s statement today that the BushCheney bots and CIA did **not** tell her that waterboarding had been occurred, the rubber appears to be hitting the road this week.

    Timelines time ;-))

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Weirdly, this morning I have a vivid mental image of the Statue of Liberty — but her face keeps changing; one minute, Marcy’s face is superimposed, another minute, Jane or Christy’s. Another minute, Whitehouse’s is, and then that head of the UAW’s fades in. Guess Larry Wilkerson is now joining my mental array of those faces superimposed who really do believe that ‘justice’ is America’s great strength, promise, and hope.

      So that’s it for my eloquence for one a.m. 8-p

  18. Mary says:

    So even though they didn’t have the OLC opinion until Aug of 2002, they were claiming originally that they briefed him in April of 2002.

    That would have been convenient for them, wouldn’t it, if torture started in, oh, say, May/June of 2002.
    It would be nice to have access to the paperwork of CIA telling him about April 2002 briefings (that didn’t happen) and who put that info together and tried to sell it.

  19. klynn says:

    That would have been convenient for them, wouldn’t it, if torture started in, oh, say, May/June of 2002.
    It would be nice to have access to the paperwork of CIA telling him about April 2002 briefings (that didn’t happen) and who put that info together and tried to sell it.

    That’s why I stated turningpoint @ 29. THAT “who” is key.

    Agree with you 100%.

  20. victoria2dc says:

    Name the reporters that are not telling it like it is — because they have vested interests in covering for Goss, and Cheney and crew.

    Could you please explain? Thanks!

    • Hugh says:

      It’s the CIA’s core mission to lie

      I would have to agree. This brings up the issue of why we have a CIA. I know many are going to say at this point, but we need the CIA. They provide intelligence! But think about it. The last time they got anything right was back in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. They have missed or got everything wrong since.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        I’ve probably read over a dozen books on the CIA and espionage in general. The most recent is The CIA and the Culture of Failure by John Diamond. That one explains why they get everything wrong. Two of the most frequent reasons are political pressure and making the opposite mistake after having been hideously embarrassed by their prior mistake. Also, they are notoriously bad at judging intentions, as is every other U.S. citizen because no one, including those in positions of power, knows anything about any other country. Also, a lot of espionage involves forecasting, and having been a professional forecaster in a different field, I can assure you it’s a loser’s game.

        But the best book of all was The Second Oldest Profession by Phillip Knightley. The bulk of the book is a history of MI6 and CIA, but the two takeaway points are: spying is doomed to fail because (1) it’s secret, i.e., no competition, no checks & balances to engender good work and (2) every failure is an excuse for bigger budgets.

        So I agree, we don’t need the CIA. But if we didn’t have one, the pols would have to invent one to give them the excuse to do the things they want to do.

        BTW there were several situations when the CIA got it right, but when I was reading the book I didn’t make a list so don’t remember what they were.

        • Hugh says:

          I agree too about how shoddy intelligence work and failures are used to justify bigger budgets. I would like to see what the CIA considers a success because looking at both states and periods I really can’t come up with any CIA successes. I suppose I could add the initial post-9/11, CIA led operations in Afghanistan but since these were in turn necessitated by the previous shortsighted support of the mujaheddin there that produced the Taliban-al Qaeda connection, I’m not sure the one cancels out the other.

          • eCAHNomics says:

            I looked through my marginalia briefly and couldn’t find them. This would have been a perfect occassion for a Kindle because they would be electronically accessable. I’m working on myself to buy one.

            I do remember that some of the successes noted were part of an ongoing process, and so success in part of it, no matter how important, did not guaranty success in the whole project.

            The Iran NIE must be considered a success, imo. One of those times when leaping out of the frying pan of the Iraq failure did not cause them to make a mistake on the opposite side, as the CIA has so frequently done.

            Another thing that was well described in the book was how far back Cheney & Team B goes. Started in the 1970s with the Soviet arms controversy.

            • Hugh says:

              Not sure how much credit they get for the Iran NIE since it a consensus intelligence product and what it was saying is nothing more than what Baradei and the IAEA had been saying for years. This is not to say that the Iran NIE wasn’t a positive development but I would hardly qualify accepting reality as an intelligence success.

  21. Hugh says:

    All members of Congress should have records (prepared by their staffs) which show their schedule for each day, who they met with, what the subject of the meetings were, etc. The big story would be if they didn’t. As for intelligence briefings, they may be instructed not to make notes but it is difficult to believe that they don’t somewhere. That’s part of CYA 101.

  22. foothillsmike says:

    Why is the MSM failing to articulate this story in conjunction with the claims about Pelosi? Oh its the MSM

  23. freepatriot says:


    did I say that loud enough

    I wanna see the notebooks

    of he was briefed, the block of time will be included in his notebooks

    if Bob Graham’s notebooks show yhat he was having a bowel movement when he was supposed to be in a CIA briefing, then we probably got evidence of the color an shape of the turd

    that’s kinds compelling evidence that the man WAS NOT BRIEFED

    most Americans couldn’t account for a random 20 minute period from 5 years back

    Bob Graham don’t got that problem

    the CIA can have fun trying to implicate the guy, they’re wastin their time …

    • SusanH says:

      This should be STRESSED…..Bob Graham is a historian’s DREAM with his meticulous record keeping of his day……each and every day.

  24. cbl2 says:

    Breaking ? ?


    Former top White House official Karl Rove will be interviewed tomorrow as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the firing of U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration, according to two sources familiar with the appointment.

    news to me, but I’m usually a little behind y’all

    • eCAHNomics says:

      I seem to remember that agreement having been reached awhile ago, but remember no details. Thanks for the notice.

    • Waccamaw says:

      Not a bat’s prayer in hell that he’s gonna be under oath. If rove ever goes down, I’m gonna go out and buy a case of the most expensive bubbly available and drink every bottle one right after the other.

  25. alank says:

    For some reason I reminded of the Emigration from Surbiton Hounslow

    Voice Over: There was only one way to see if the journey between Surbiton and Hounslow was possible, and that was to try and make it. Months of preparation followed whilst Mr Norris continued his research in the Putney Public Library, (Mr Norris in a library reading a book titled ‘The Lady with the Naked Skin’ by Paul Fox Jnr) and Mrs Norris made sandwiches.

    (Cut to Mr and Mrs Norris leaving their home.)

    Voice Over: Finally, by April, they were ready. On the 23rd, Mr and Mrs Norris set out from ‘Abide-A-Wee’ to motor the fifteen miles to Surbiton, watched by a crowd of local well-wishers. (one tiny child holding a small British flag) That evening they dined at Tooting. (quick flash of them sitting in the window of a Golden Egg or Wimpy place) This would be the last they’d see of civilization. Mr Norris’s diary for the 23rd reveals the extraordinary calmness and deep inner peacefulness of his mind.

    (We see the diary.)

    Mr Norris’s Voice: 7.30 Fed cat. 8.00 Breakfast. 8.30 Yes (successfully). 9.00 Set out on historic journey.

    (Cut to Mr Norris’s car driving along a suburban road. A sign says ‘You are now leaving Surbiton, gateway to Esher’.)

  26. Justinajustice says:

    We need to change the name of the Central Intelligence Agency to Central Incompetence Agency. Don’t they have the “intelligence” to know that Senator Graham was made nationally notorious during his presidential campaign for his obsessional daily diary — itemizing every single thing he does — down to what fruit comprised his breakfast fruit salad. Falsely Claiming that Senator Graham was at two meetings which he was not at, puts their entire operation in question.

  27. freepatriot says:

    The last time they got anything right was back in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. They have missed or got everything wrong since.

    think about it

    the CIA got the missile crisis right

    and they had a hard-on to attack Castro at the time

    and they got everything else wrong

    when they had a hard-on to attack every other perceived enemy

    there is a story about blind squirrels and acorns that fits here somewhere, don’t ya think ???

  28. tejanarusa says:

    I’ll drink to that, Waccamaw!

    That would be worth inviting in the neighborhood to share!

  29. travy says:

    good catch, this could be big… i think bob graham is a great man (and a gator!!) and one of the few who can still hold his head high with his integrity intact after the bush years. i also find it richly ironic that one of the few negatives attatched to him over his career is his obsessive record keeping which could now be the smoking gun that cracks this open. sweet!

  30. gmoke says:

    Bob Graham famously takes notes on what he does and who he meets every day, many times a day. He probably has those notes to confirm his statements.

  31. timbo says:

    What’s fascinating to me here is the possible contradictions from the actual timeline and the ones in Tenet book (et als) about this seem series of events. The case for war crimes indictments against Tenet and various folks in the CIA is growing…not only the possible charges against Bush & Co that have been apparent to the rest of the world outside of the United States™ for some time.

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