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.

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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; Read more

“If You’re Trying to Commit a Crime,” You Wouldn’t Brief Democrats

I’ve been meticulously tracking the erroneous claims made about whether or not Democrats got briefed on torture because:

  • The known briefing schedule makes it clear that CIA broke the law requiring them to inform Congress of their actions
  • Some of the arguments rely on either illiteracy or willful ignorance of the public record in their claims

But in today’s hearing Lindsey Graham makes clear why the Republicans are arguing this point so aggressively.

Now. I don’t know what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it. And I really don’t think she’s a criminal if she was told about waterboarding and did nothing. But I think it is important to understand that members of Congress, allegedly, were briefed by … about these interrogation techniques. And again, it goes back to the idea of what was the Administration trying to do. If you’re trying to commit a crime, it seems to me that’d be the last thing you’d want to do. If you had in your mind and your heart that you’re going to disregard the law, and you’re going to come up with interrogation techniques that you know to be illegal, you would not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it. 



That’s the point now, isn’t it?

Because no one in Congress was told that the CIA was going to start torturing in 2002, until it was too late. Pelosi and Goss were told, after CIA had waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times, that CIA might waterboard in the future. Bob Graham was not told of waterboarding at all, according to him. Jello Jay was not at the briefing at which CIA told Pat Roberts "in considerable detail" about waterboarding. The CIA doesn’t even say Jane Harman was told about waterboarding specifically in February 2003 (though I assume she was). 

The first time CIA can say for certain that any Democratic members of Congress at all were briefed on waterboarding was in July 2004, after CIA had waterboarded for what ended up being the last time, and after their own Inspector General determined they were breaking the law.

And then, in 2005, when CIA was trying to sustain their ability to torture against Congressional wishes, CIA had briefings for Ted Stevens and Thad Cochran with no Democrats in attendance. They had a briefing for John McCain with no Democrats in attendance. Read more

Graham Corroborates Pelosi

FWIW, Greg Sargent’s account of his interview with Bob Graham seems to suggest Graham may have gotten even less in his briefing on torture than Nancy Pelosi did in September 2002.

“I do not have any recollection of being briefed on waterboarding or other forms of extraordinary interrogation techniques, or Abu Zubaydah being subjected to them,” Graham told me by phone moments ago, in a reference to the terror suspect who had been repeatedly waterboarded the month before.

Graham is the only other Dem aside from Pelosi to get briefed in 2002, so they are both in effect asserting that no Dem was briefed on the use of EITs that year. The date of the next briefing was in February 2003.

Graham claimed he would have remembered if he’d been told about the use of torture. “Something as unexpected and dramatic as that would be the kind of thing that you would normally expect to recall even years later,” he said.


Graham denied being told about EITs, and argued that the presence of two staff members at the meeting (as indicated in the records) would have made it “highly unusual” for the briefers to divulge such sensitive info. “I don’t recall having had one of those kinds of briefings with staff present,” he said. “That would defeat the purpose of keeping a tight hold” on the info.

Graham, however, was circumspect on what was actually discussed, saying only that “the general topic had to do with detainee interrogations” but didn’t include any reference to EITs or waterboarding.

Click through to see the account of a US Official (remember–the torture briefing list came via the Director of National Intelligence office from the CIA) saying only that CIA records say Graham was briefed on torture. Right. Yes. We know CIA is not vouching for the accuracy of those documents.

Pelosi has said, a variety of times, that the opinions approving some interrogation techniques were discussed, but that they weren’t told the techniques were going to be used or–much more importantly–had been used.  [Update: here’s the statement her spokesperson Brendan Daly put out last week: "As this document shows, the Speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002.  The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used."] Or to put it very simply for those who still don’t get this, Pelosi has been saying that CIA briefed them on the legality of using torture, but did not admit (and may have specifically denied) that they had used these torture techniques. Pelosi is making a temporal claim as much as anything else.

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