Friday, July 10, 2009
This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from July 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: There is a briefing that is of serious concern to members of the committee and they have their course of action to deal with it.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: I do not believe that the CIA lied to Congress. I am still waiting for Speaker Pelosi to either put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize. And I don't know that this letter changes anything with regard to the speaker's action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, "this letter" was a letter from seven of the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee referencing the CIA Director Leon Panetta attending a briefing June 24 in which he told those Democrats — that committee — that there was something, we don't know what it was, that was not adequately briefed, according to the CIA, to Congress.
From that, the chairman of the committee, Silvestre Reyes, wrote a letter saying that he felt that the CIA had lied to Congress. That was followed up by the seven Democrats who called for Panetta to apologize.
This is outside and separate of the House speaker's comments about the CIA lying to Congress.
So what about all of this and where does it stand? Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Steve, it's important to separate the two. House Speaker Pelosi was talking about a briefing in 2002. These Democrats are talking about a briefing that happened in June 24 where there was some kind of revelation.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The way you framed that is exactly right and it is important to be precise about this and separate the two. They come together at some point, but you need to separate them to start with.
What I find most fascinating about this, looking at the allegations of the briefing that took place on June 24 — Director Panetta in front of a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee — is that it is now the position of the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, seven Democrats on the house intelligence committee and the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, that the CIA lies to Congress as a matter of policy, as a matter of practice.
That is their claim now at this point. They went back to Director Panetta and asked him to retract his comment before relating to the first matter, the Nancy Pelosi matter.
BAIER: In which she said she wasn't told about waterboarding.
HAYES: In which she said she wasn't told about waterboarding and accused the CIA of misleading her. Panetta sent a letter and said "No, we don't mislead."
Well, it's now the position of these prominent Democrats, really, the House Democrats, that the CIA does, in fact, lie to Congress as a matter of policy and that Panetta needs to retract that earlier letter because of what he said in this briefing the other day.
It's confusing, but it's important to understand that in a Democratic administration with a former Democratic member of the House leading the CIA, House Democrats are accusing the CIA of lying as a matter of practice.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think this is baffling on a lot of levels. I mean, you have got Democratic control now of all branches of government and you have this fight between House Democrats and the CIA.
You would think the message that the Democrats would want out there about intelligence and national security is we're working as hard as we can to do better and to have more — smarter — intelligence. Instead, there is just a big fight.
BAIER: So it's your sense that this was a political move that backfired, to protect the House Speaker?
LIASSON: I think, on one level, that's part of it, because, even though, as Steve pointed out and you did, these are completely separate matters, it echoes the exact charges that Nancy Pelosi made about the CIA. And she didn't make a distinction at first between the Bush-era CIA and the current one. She basically said it's the CIA in general.
And then you have this other layer of this where you have the Democratic Congress at war with the Democratic White House over the intelligence authorization bill, about whether or not you should brief just the top ranking members of the intelligence committees or whether the whole committee should be briefed. And the White House has issued what I think is its only veto threat, I can't think of another one.
BAIER: It's first, yes.
LIASSON: It's first veto threat over this.
So this is what the Democrats doing about intelligence right now, which doesn't seem to be the message that they would want to send.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What we have here, there's a truth issue and there's a politics issue.
On the truth, we need to hear from the head of the CIA, what he said. He's not going to tell us in detail, obviously, what he said in a closed session, what was it, the general area, where in the world, what time, was something concealed or lied about? And he is the one who would know.
In the meantime, the politics of this are puzzling. The only advantage I can see that Democrats are gaining is to blacken the name of the Bush administration, which is, of course, an exercise in redundancy: There is no advantage in that; it's been done.
On the other hand, it hurts the Democrats in two ways. First of all, as Mara indicated, it puts the Democrats, who are in charge of the Congress and in the executive, at war with their own CIA in wartime. It's insane. And it's going to undermine Panetta in the CIA he is supposed to actually lead.
And secondly, if it was an attempt, and it looks as if it was an attempt, to cover for Pelosi and her accusations of lying, a) it doesn't work, because, as we heard earlier in the show, this lapse, if it occurred, was not about interrogation, and her issue was interrogation.
So, a) it will not help her in substance. And, b) it raises the issue of her veracity, her changing stories, which had hurt her a few months ago, and had been dormant. Now it's revived. It's on the table again.
I think it's going to hurt the Democrats all-in-all.
BAIER: And as you said, the CIA says that Panetta learned about this on the 23rd. He felt that it was not adequately briefed to Congress, suggesting perhaps it was briefed at some level, perhaps the gang of eight, the leadership and the head of the committees. And it was a program that ended, started in 2001, and at some point has ended.
LIASSON: Or never actually happened. It is unclear.
BAIER: Or never launched. And we don't know what it was.
The bottom line, Steve, where does it go from here? Does it open up this Pandora's box for the speaker again?
HAYES: Sure. It already has. You have the House Republicans now saying, I think with great reason — Nancy Pelosi has accused the CIA of lying. She never provided evidence that they, in fact, did lie and House Republicans have requested the evidence that they have looked at.
Several House Republicans went over to the CIA, they looked at the things that Nancy Pelosi was briefed on in these briefings in question, and among these things, I'm told, are slideshows, or Powerpoint presentations, that lay out exactly what she was briefed on.
Why would Leon Panetta — what is his incentive now not to release those and to show that, no, in fact, the CIA doesn't lie as a matter of policy.
BAIER: We should point out one more thing: The House intelligence committee has not held a hearing on any of these accusations and the Department of Justice has not launched an investigation.
We told you earlier how the president's approval numbers are slipping in one key state. The panel weighs in on what looks like a tough week for the commander in chief.