Panel on Panetta's Letter to Pelosi

Panel on Panetta's Letter to Pelosi

By Special Report With Bret Baier - May 15, 2009

BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Today the CIA released a letter by Director Leon Panetta to agency employees reacting to Pelosi's charge, stating, among other things, "Let me be clear. It is not our policy to practice or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values.

As the agency indicated previously in response to congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zabaydah, describing the enhanced techniques that had been employed."

Late tonight, Speaker Pelosi put out a statement reacting to Panetta's letter, stating in part: "My criticism in the manner in which the Bush administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate for my respect for those in the intelligence community who worked to keep our country safe."

Well, let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes Senior Writer for the "Weekly Standard," Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer - Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, it's an interesting statement that she put out today, and it's complete nonsense.

It makes sense that she would want to charge the Bush administration and separate her attacks from the criticism that she leveled yesterday against the intelligence professionals that she now claims to side with. That was inconvenient, and she was getting beat up for it.

I think there is also a very interesting story taking place in Congress right now. You have Pete Hoekstra and John Boehner asking to see a second set of documents related to the briefings that Nancy Pelosi got.

Those documents include, potentially, things like the slide shows that were shown at those briefings at which she- that she participated in. That will give us more information about the briefings that she participated in, and I think we are likely to see a concerted push from Republicans to get that out.

You have already had Steny Hoyer say he is in favor of having it out. Nancy Pelosi yesterday said she was OK with it coming out. Silver Reyes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Community has said "I don't want that out." He seems to be the only one blocking it at this point.

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Yes, I was with a senior Bush official last night, who said you never want to get into a fight with the CIA, because they can leak on you to death.

And that's what's happening. This report that Nancy Pelosi did stop another operation by the CIA when she objected, you know -

BAIER: In 2004.

KONDRACKE: Right, undoubtedly came from the CIA. And they have lots of evidence that they can use against her.

And it looks as though she's trying to back off from that. "I didn't mean the present CIA, I meant that old CIA that was running under Bush."

But look, this is all about, fundamentally a battle of vengeance. The Democrats did not impeach George Bush, so now they want to represent his entire administration as being a criminal enterprise.

And the Republicans are fighting back by saying, look, you, Nancy Pelosi, in 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11, you agreed that this was OK. But now, you know, years later, she wants to join the hanging party of Bush.

It's not going to work.

BAIER: Is she threatened?

KONDRACKE: I don't think she is threatened as speaker, but her reputation is certainly threatened.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it could go far out. I don't think it's a battle between the Republicans and Democrats anymore. It's Pelosi and the CIA. And as Mort indicates, you don't want to mess with the CIA, and she messed with it.

She accused it, its agents of felonies, lying. And what we're getting - and you don't want to do that, because the CIA is the keeper of the secrets.

This statement by Panetta, remember, a leading Democrat, and an Obama appointee, every word of it is a contradiction of what she said - "contemporaneous records," implying there is other stuff out there that we have which contradicts. It could be the slide show - and that the briefing was about interrogations describing the enhanced, as you said, techniques that had been used, meaning it was about what had happened a month earlier.

Her problem is that they can leak, as we saw earlier in the show. We had the story from Jim Angle in which he talked about how Pelosi had stopped an operation.

And where do you think Jim got his stuff? I'm not privy. I didn't speak with Jim. But as a listener, I hear it, and I say it obviously didn't come out of Pelosi's office.

The CIA has the goods and it will leak and leak and leak until she breaks. At some point, there is going to be a decisive piece of evidence which will show that she was told, and she is going to have to explain how she said originally "I hadn't heard," which is OK. It could have been a lapse of memory.

But now her story is "I heard, and they said it hadn't occurred." Well, that's hard to defend.

KONDRACKE: You know what she ought to do is she ought to send an aide out to the CIA, have him look over the record out there, come back, and then she could say, "On second thought, having reviewed the record, my memory -

KRAUTHAMMER: It's too late.

KONDRACKE: No, I don't think so. I don't think so.

KRAUTHAMMER: She could have done it when her story was, "I don't recall ever hearing about it." Once you say "I heard the opposite," that's a positive recollection, and you can't walk it back.

HAYES: And having talked to some people who are familiar with the contents of this next batch of material that could come out, I think the last thing she wants is to actually be familiar with those contents.

That could be even more damaging to her, because then she is going to have to try to explain away these very specific details about what was actually in these briefings that she got.

BAIER: We pointed out yesterday that this clearly was fuel to the fire on the story, and it gave it a lot of legs. As you go into next week and we continue to talk about these truth commission possibilities, where does this go? Steve, let's start with you.

HAYES: I don't know that it goes anywhere right now. Democrats who have been so enthusiastic about truth commissions have to be stopping and saying, "OK, wait a second. We don't know what's in the CIA memos to the file. We don't know what the agency has against us right now, or have in its records right now.

But we do know that one of our leaders, Nancy Pelosi, has directly challenged the agency in a very public way, accusing its officers, intelligence professionals, of lying." That's not a good place for Democrats to be right now.

KONDRACKE: I think Obama really has to get this stuff stopped. And he is trying to get things stopped by not putting out the pictures, for example.

BAIER: Although they wouldn't weigh in at all today.

KONDRACKE: I know, but that's evidence that they don't want any part of this.

I think that if he appoints a presidential commission that is above reproach, which everybody agrees is composed of sterling characters, I think he can get this off the table.

KRAUTHAMMER: Maybe he wants to, but he's the guy who started it. He's the one who decided on releasing the memos. It was an issue that had been put away. It was not on the table. It was not out there. He created the firestorm, and now he's got to live with it.


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