Not hardly. In 2003, the CIA staked its reputation on the claim that Iraq possessed usable weapons of mass destruction (WMD – the catch-all term meant to imply nuclear armaments). In reality, they knew for a fact no such weapons existed. Former President Bush then ordered an illegal invasion of a country that had not attacked us and posed no threat. More than a million people died.
“[T]he agency, fearful above all else of dismemberment by politicians outraged by its appalling track record, has lied with pathological consistency to Presidents and Congresses,” wrote Spencer Ackerman last June.
What, then, to make of the current media obsession about whether or not the CIA lied to Rep. Nancy Pelosi in a September 2002 briefing? The question ought to answer itself.
Just when it seemed to many that the right had lost its mojo, give conservatives credit: They’re still enormously good at ginning up controversies and controlling the news cycle. Thus a story that was once about the Bush administration’s decision to authorize barbaric and illegal acts of torture has successfully been morphed into a to-do about Nancy Pelosi’s account of CIA briefings.
As political gamesmanship, it’s been masterful. I particularly like the way the right has managed to trot out an endless procession of figures willing to express outrage that anyone would ever hint that the CIA might mislead a member of Congress.
…Obviously, I wasn’t in the room with Pelosi and whoever briefed her, but anyone with any recollection of history should be aware that it would hardly be unusual for the country’s marquee intelligence agency to do something like that. Indeed, deception of Congress has been a common occurrence in the agency’s history, and one former director, Richard Helms, was even convicted of lying to Congress.
The CIA has zero credibility. In fact, there’s no reason to maintain an expensive intelligence agency that can’t be believed. The U.S. government has 17 other intelligence agencies that do a better job than the CIA.
Oh, and the CIA is guilty of torturing detainees in order to coerce false information linking Iraq to the 9/11 attacks. Some were tortured to death.
UPDATE: The Rasmussen Poll is always right-shifted, but even Rasmussen says more people believe Speaker Pelosi than believe the CIA’s story.
UPDATE: From Josh Marshall:
Not too many people noticed. But yesterday on Meet the Press, the always on-message Michael Steele managed to stumble his way into endorsing a Bush/torture Truth Commission. He even said a lot of other Republicans are calling for one too.
UPDATE: In addition to the CIA, in late 2002 and early 2003 interrogators at Guantanamo were also tasked with producing evidence of Iraq-al Qaeda ties.
UPDATE: Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was a guest on “The View” today and gave co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck a lesson about waterboarding (a former Navy SEAL, Ventura actually knows what he’s talking about).
UPDATE: What is the matter with Joe Scarborough? This morning on MSNBC, he launched — yet again — into an angry defense of torture. Later in the show, Bob Shum got Rudy Giuliani to back off his claim the CIA has never lied.
UPDATE: The accuracy of the CIA document that purports to document congressional briefings has now been challenged by: CIA Director Leon Panetta, Senator Jay Rockefeller, former Senator Bob Graham, Rep. David Obey, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
UPDATE: TPM points out that the CIA refers to briefings on “EITs,” or enhanced interrogation techniques going back to 2002. But according to a former intelligence professional who has participated in such briefings, that term wasn’t used until at least 2004.
UPDATE: The CIA has reiterated that the record of congressional briefings cannot be regarded as authoritative:
As the agency has pointed out more than once, its list — compiled in response to congressional requests — reflects the records it has. These are notes, memos, and recollections, not transcripts and recordings.
UPDATE: Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) has been going around vouching for the truthfulness of the CIA. Yet he himself accused the agency of lying to Congress last November and on other occasions.