WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused the CIA and Bush administration of misleading her at a secret 2002 briefing on the use of harsh interrogations in the war on terror.
CIA records suggest that Pelosi, D-Calif., was told at that time that the Bush administration was using waterboarding - a simulated drowning. Pelosi, however, said on May 14 that spy agency officials specifically informed her at that session that the practice was not used.
The CIA's records on the subject are vague. Here is a brief timeline on the conflicting accounts of what Pelosi knew, and when:
_Sept. 4, 2002: Pelosi, then the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and the panel's Republican chairman, former Rep. Porter J. Goss of Florida, are briefed on the use of harsh interrogation methods in the war on terror. CIA records describe the subject of the secret briefing as "enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah ... and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed." The Bush administration acknowledged in 2008 that Zubaydah had been waterboarded, and documents subsequently revealed that the method was used on him at least 82 times in August 2002. Pelosi said on May 14 that briefers at the 2002 meeting told her that the administration had deemed the harsh tactics legal, but that they specifically said that they had not used waterboarding.
_Feb. 5, 2003: Pelosi, now House minority leader, is informed by a top aide who sits in on a secret briefing of Goss and the new senior Democrat on the Intelligence panel, Rep. Jane Harman of California, that the administration has used harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding. She is informed that Harman is lodging a formal written protest of the practice in a letter to the CIA.
_Dec. 9, 2007: Pelosi, now the House speaker, first publicly acknowledges having been briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002 and learning in 2003 of their use. Responding to a news report that said Pelosi was among top lawmakers who had been briefed in 2002 about waterboarding, she issues a statement saying she had been briefed once in 2002 "on interrogation techniques the administration was considering using in the future," and told that Bush's team "had concluded that the techniques were legal." She also acknowledges learning in 2003 that Harman had been briefed that "the techniques had in fact been employed." She references Harman's letter of objection and says it was "a protest with which I concurred."
_April 23, 2009: Pelosi for the first time directly denies having been told at the 2002 briefing that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques had been used. After the Senate Intelligence Committee releases a timeline showing that key lawmakers in both parties had been briefed at that time about the use of waterboarding on terrorism detainees, Pelosi tells reporters she was not one of them: "We were not - I repeat, were not - told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used," Pelosi said. She says again that she was told then that the administration had concluded the practices were legal.
_May 6, 2009: CIA Director Leon Panetta tells lawmakers in a letter to the Intelligence Committee that he can't vouch for the accuracy of the CIA records that describe what Pelosi and other lawmakers were told about enhanced interrogation techniques. It's up to the Intelligence Committee to "determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened," he writes.
_May 7, 2009: Pelosi's spokesman says she stands by her account of the 2002 briefing, and for the first time says that at that session Pelosi was told specifically that waterboarding had not been used. "The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used," said spokesman Brendan Daly.
_May 14, 2009: Pelosi herself says for the first time that she was specifically told in 2002 that waterboarding had not been used, and accuses the CIA of misleading her and the Congress. She also confirms that she learned of its use in February 2003. CIA Spokesman George Little says the CIA's description of Pelosi's briefing was "true to the language in the agency's records," adding, "It is not the policy of this agency to mislead the United States Congress."
_May 15, 2009: Panetta tells CIA employees in a message that agency records show CIA officers briefed lawmakers truthfully in 2002 on methods of interrogating terrorism suspects, but it is up to Congress to reach its own conclusions about what happened. "Let me be clear. It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress," Panetta writes.