Parsing Pelosi

On June 10, 1998, Rep. Porter Goss (R—FL), then Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and now CIA Director, held a public hearing on the issue of whistleblowers in the intelligence community (IC).  The concern of those in the Congress was that information, especially classified information, that the intelligence committees of both the House and Senate should be receiving or be aware of, was, in fact, being prevented from reaching them. This was, at least in part, because of the fears of those within the IC that by providing such information, either directly to Congress or through departmental inspector generals, they would find themselves punished in one manner or another for their having gone around or outside their own organizations.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D—CA), currently House Minority Leader and in 1998 a member of the House Select Intelligence Committee, is certainly not shy about criticizing President Bush for authorizing warrantless NSA intercepts of communications between an overseas terrorist suspect and a domestically located US person. There has even been some speculation that perhaps she is the source of the leaks to the New York Times that provided the basis for their story regarding warrantless 'domestic spying' by the NSA. She was certainly aware of the practice as evidenced by her releasing a recently declassified letter, written in October of 2001,  from her to the NSA asking if the President had authorized these intercepts. And thus, she was knowledgeable regarding the issue at the time the Times reporter James Risen first became aware of the story.

Now, this is all pure speculation, and in no way whatsoever constitutes an indictment of Ms. Pelosi. However, her current performance seems at odds with some past statements of hers made as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. This becomes obvious when reading the following segment from a transcript of the committee hearing. Please note that Ms. Martin, Director, Center for National Security Studies, was a witness called to testify and Mr. Bishop, a Democratic Representative from Georgia, was then a member of the House Intelligence Committee:

MARTIN: What the whistleblowers do is give you some more assurance that you'll get the information you're entitled to and you need. And when the Justice Department says, "Well, it's just a question of how you get it," in fact, I think that Representative Pelosi is correct. Their position is —— and if you read their legal opinions and their testimony—— that you have no right to this information now. And that's why the employees may not come tell you now.

And that's a pretty extreme position. And I think it's a position that's unconstitutional and interferes with your responsibilities.

GOSS: We have a lot of discussion on that subject, actually. It seems that most of the information I want, that I think that the committee needs to have is the subject of investigation by the DOJ, which we'd best not get involved with because it would upset their investigation. 

And I must say I'm getting a little tired of that. But let me go back to the purpose of why we're here today. And before I do, I'll ask for any last comment or question from members so that we can dismiss the panel promptly. 

You had a comment, Ms. Pelosi? Please.

PELOSI: Mr. Chairman, I want to associate myself with the remarks of Representative Harman when she appreciated the bipartisan nature...

GOSS: Thank you.

PELOSI: ... of the way you conduct our committee and our hearings. And as you know, I hold our chairman in the highest regard.

GOSS: Thank you.

PELOSI: And also his respect for confidentiality of classified information. We've served on two committees of this kind together. And you couldn't get a word out of either of us, right? 

GOSS: Right.

PELOSI: On any of this. And having just said that, I do want to, because of the issue at hand, say however this goes —— and I'm listening and I appreciate the chairman's flexibility —— that while I understand the concern that the chairman and others have had and has been expressed by Mr. Lewis about the end use of the information that Mr. Nuccio (ph) disclosed to a member of this committee, that I just don't see what options Mr. Nuccio had with the information that he had, the timeliness of it, the fact that it wasn't being made known to the Congress of the United States. 

And I can't really say —— as committed as I am to the confidentiality that we all must have here —— respect for classified information that we have here and in other committees we have served on together, that it would be hard to see how a person of conscience with information, who cannot get it brought forward should be punished and have his security clearance removed because he revealed classified information to a member of Permanent Select Committee —— House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence. He was not responsible for the end use. 

And without going into how we all think about what the end use was, he was not responsible for that. He was responsible for the information he had and the oath that he took to this country. 

And I simply believe that it is a grave injustice to Mr. Nuccio(ph). And I just wanted to put that on the record. Once again, Mr. Chairman, holding you in the high esteem that I do, I won't take any longer on that subject. 

GOSS: Thank you. Did you have any further comment, Mr. Bishop?

BISHOP: No, Mr. Chairman. I, too, associate myself with the remarks of Ms. Harman and Ms. Pelosi... 

GOSS: Thank you very much.

BISHOP: ... and the nonpartisan way that you've approached this issue and all issues. And I want the chairman to know that I certainly appreciate very much your efforts in this regard....

There are at least three things that strike one regarding Nancy Pelosi's performance during this hearing:

1.       How gushingly fawning she is while voicing her appreciation to Chairman Goss, 'for the bipartisan nature of the way you conduct our committee and our hearings. And as you know, I hold our chairman in the highest regard.' Good grief! Whatever happened to all that bipartisanship?

2.       Ms. Pelosi leaves no doubt as to how important she regards the sanctity of protecting classified information when she states, 'And also his (Goss's) respect for confidentiality of classified information. We've served on two committees of this kind together. And you couldn't get a word out of either of us, right?'; as well as, 'And I can't really say —— as committed as I am to the confidentiality that we all must have here —— respect for classified information that we have here and in other committees we have served on together, that it would be hard to see how a person of conscience with information, who cannot get it brought forward should be punished and have his security clearance removed because he revealed classified information to a member of Permanent Select Committee...'

3.       Keep in mind that the above hearing was five—and—a—half years into the Clinton Administration and they're the one's keeping Congress in the dark and whacking, metaphorically one trusts, the whistleblowers. Fast forward to the present and we have the Bush Administration fully informing the Congress while Pelosi sits on the NSA intercept information for four years before deciding it's an investigable situation.

Or did she?

According to Robert Novak,

'The Democratic Caucus vote that propelled Pelosi to power was cast Oct. 10, 2001, when Pelosi defeated Hoyer for party whip, 118 to 95.'

And the New York Times reports that

'The N.S.A. operation prompted questions from a leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who said in an Oct. 11, 2001, letter to a top intelligence official that she was concerned about the agency's legal authority to expand its domestic operations, the documents showed.'

The day after she became Minority Whip. And not a peep since. Hmmm?

The Democrats may have just jumped off the cliff with this one. Without a parachute.

On June 10, 1998, Rep. Porter Goss (R—FL), then Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and now CIA Director, held a public hearing on the issue of whistleblowers in the intelligence community (IC).  The concern of those in the Congress was that information, especially classified information, that the intelligence committees of both the House and Senate should be receiving or be aware of, was, in fact, being prevented from reaching them. This was, at least in part, because of the fears of those within the IC that by providing such information, either directly to Congress or through departmental inspector generals, they would find themselves punished in one manner or another for their having gone around or outside their own organizations.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D—CA), currently House Minority Leader and in 1998 a member of the House Select Intelligence Committee, is certainly not shy about criticizing President Bush for authorizing warrantless NSA intercepts of communications between an overseas terrorist suspect and a domestically located US person. There has even been some speculation that perhaps she is the source of the leaks to the New York Times that provided the basis for their story regarding warrantless 'domestic spying' by the NSA. She was certainly aware of the practice as evidenced by her releasing a recently declassified letter, written in October of 2001,  from her to the NSA asking if the President had authorized these intercepts. And thus, she was knowledgeable regarding the issue at the time the Times reporter James Risen first became aware of the story.

Now, this is all pure speculation, and in no way whatsoever constitutes an indictment of Ms. Pelosi. However, her current performance seems at odds with some past statements of hers made as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. This becomes obvious when reading the following segment from a transcript of the committee hearing. Please note that Ms. Martin, Director, Center for National Security Studies, was a witness called to testify and Mr. Bishop, a Democratic Representative from Georgia, was then a member of the House Intelligence Committee:

MARTIN: What the whistleblowers do is give you some more assurance that you'll get the information you're entitled to and you need. And when the Justice Department says, "Well, it's just a question of how you get it," in fact, I think that Representative Pelosi is correct. Their position is —— and if you read their legal opinions and their testimony—— that you have no right to this information now. And that's why the employees may not come tell you now.

And that's a pretty extreme position. And I think it's a position that's unconstitutional and interferes with your responsibilities.

GOSS: We have a lot of discussion on that subject, actually. It seems that most of the information I want, that I think that the committee needs to have is the subject of investigation by the DOJ, which we'd best not get involved with because it would upset their investigation. 

And I must say I'm getting a little tired of that. But let me go back to the purpose of why we're here today. And before I do, I'll ask for any last comment or question from members so that we can dismiss the panel promptly. 

You had a comment, Ms. Pelosi? Please.

PELOSI: Mr. Chairman, I want to associate myself with the remarks of Representative Harman when she appreciated the bipartisan nature...

GOSS: Thank you.

PELOSI: ... of the way you conduct our committee and our hearings. And as you know, I hold our chairman in the highest regard.

GOSS: Thank you.

PELOSI: And also his respect for confidentiality of classified information. We've served on two committees of this kind together. And you couldn't get a word out of either of us, right? 

GOSS: Right.

PELOSI: On any of this. And having just said that, I do want to, because of the issue at hand, say however this goes —— and I'm listening and I appreciate the chairman's flexibility —— that while I understand the concern that the chairman and others have had and has been expressed by Mr. Lewis about the end use of the information that Mr. Nuccio (ph) disclosed to a member of this committee, that I just don't see what options Mr. Nuccio had with the information that he had, the timeliness of it, the fact that it wasn't being made known to the Congress of the United States. 

And I can't really say —— as committed as I am to the confidentiality that we all must have here —— respect for classified information that we have here and in other committees we have served on together, that it would be hard to see how a person of conscience with information, who cannot get it brought forward should be punished and have his security clearance removed because he revealed classified information to a member of Permanent Select Committee —— House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence. He was not responsible for the end use. 

And without going into how we all think about what the end use was, he was not responsible for that. He was responsible for the information he had and the oath that he took to this country. 

And I simply believe that it is a grave injustice to Mr. Nuccio(ph). And I just wanted to put that on the record. Once again, Mr. Chairman, holding you in the high esteem that I do, I won't take any longer on that subject. 

GOSS: Thank you. Did you have any further comment, Mr. Bishop?

BISHOP: No, Mr. Chairman. I, too, associate myself with the remarks of Ms. Harman and Ms. Pelosi... 

GOSS: Thank you very much.

BISHOP: ... and the nonpartisan way that you've approached this issue and all issues. And I want the chairman to know that I certainly appreciate very much your efforts in this regard....

There are at least three things that strike one regarding Nancy Pelosi's performance during this hearing:

1.       How gushingly fawning she is while voicing her appreciation to Chairman Goss, 'for the bipartisan nature of the way you conduct our committee and our hearings. And as you know, I hold our chairman in the highest regard.' Good grief! Whatever happened to all that bipartisanship?

2.       Ms. Pelosi leaves no doubt as to how important she regards the sanctity of protecting classified information when she states, 'And also his (Goss's) respect for confidentiality of classified information. We've served on two committees of this kind together. And you couldn't get a word out of either of us, right?'; as well as, 'And I can't really say —— as committed as I am to the confidentiality that we all must have here —— respect for classified information that we have here and in other committees we have served on together, that it would be hard to see how a person of conscience with information, who cannot get it brought forward should be punished and have his security clearance removed because he revealed classified information to a member of Permanent Select Committee...'

3.       Keep in mind that the above hearing was five—and—a—half years into the Clinton Administration and they're the one's keeping Congress in the dark and whacking, metaphorically one trusts, the whistleblowers. Fast forward to the present and we have the Bush Administration fully informing the Congress while Pelosi sits on the NSA intercept information for four years before deciding it's an investigable situation.

Or did she?

According to Robert Novak,

'The Democratic Caucus vote that propelled Pelosi to power was cast Oct. 10, 2001, when Pelosi defeated Hoyer for party whip, 118 to 95.'

And the New York Times reports that

'The N.S.A. operation prompted questions from a leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who said in an Oct. 11, 2001, letter to a top intelligence official that she was concerned about the agency's legal authority to expand its domestic operations, the documents showed.'

The day after she became Minority Whip. And not a peep since. Hmmm?

The Democrats may have just jumped off the cliff with this one. Without a parachute.