Recollections of ’02 Torture Briefings Differ Along Party Lines

May 14, 2009 4:55pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: Four members of Congress were briefed about "enhanced interrogation techniques" in separate briefings for the Senate and House in September of 2002, according to CIA records, but their recollections about what the CIA briefed them on are all slightly different and they seem to fall on party lines.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was at the briefing for the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee – she was then ranking member. She said today that CIA briefer said definitively that while it was legal, they weren’t using waterboarding then even though records now show they were.

Former Sen. Bob Graham, had a different riff on what CIA briefers said. In an interview he did just now with Jon Karl for World News. Graham was the Chairman of the Senate Intel Committee in 2002 and he said he has no recollection of the CIA talking then about using waterboarding. He said he didn’t even know at the time what waterboarding was in 2002.

Former Rep. Porter Goss, the Florida Congressman and then-chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a 4.25 Washington Post Op-Ed that he recalls being briefed in full about CIA techniques.

Goss would have been at the briefing with Pelosi where she says she was told the opposite – that waterboarding was legal, but not being used.

Now, in a written statement, Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002, sides with Goss.

"To his recollection, not only did the CIA briefers provide what was purported to be a full account of the techniques, they also described the need for these techniques and the value of the information being obtained from terrorists during the questioning," according to Jonathan Graffeo, a Shelby spokemsan. Graffeo said Sen. Shelby specifically recalls waterboarding being discussed.

Graffeo also says that Shelby recalls no objections made about the interrogation techniques.

Graham, for his part, was asked if he thought Shelby was lying – if Graham doesn’t recall waterboarding and Shelby recalls being fully briefed, there is a stark difference of recollection. And Graham also said he doesn’t think the CIA briefers were lying either. He said the 2002 briefing, because it included staffers in addition to the two lawmakers, was not at a high enough level of security where they CIA briefers even would have discussed something like waterboarding.

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