Newt Gingrich again falsely claimed that Leon Panetta said Nancy Pelosi's allegation that the CIA misled Congress about its use of enhanced interrogation techniques is untrue.
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Referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) allegation that the CIA gave her false information about enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002, Fox contributor and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich again falsely claimed, during the May 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity, that CIA director Leon Panetta said in a May 15 statement that Pelosi's allegation is untrue.
On Hannity, Gingrich said, "Leon Panetta, now the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, sent out an email to all of his employees at the Central Intelligence Agency, pointing out very explicitly -- this is a former Democratic congressman -- saying that they did brief in 2002 accurately; saying that it is a falsehood to suggest that the CIA lies to the Congress." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, in his May 15 statement, Panetta stated, "Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress" [emphasis added]. He went on to state that "our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully" but that "[u]ltimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions." Indeed, as Politico's White House reporter Josh Gerstein noted in a May 18 post, "Panetta didn't reject or deny ... Pelosi's allegations that she was falsely briefed by the CIA about interrogations. Look carefully at Panetta's statement from Friday, especially the verb tense used. ... Panetta isn't opining on past acts. He's referring to the current policy. He's also not saying it never happens or happened that someone lied to or misled Congress. He's saying the agency as a whole doesn't intend to."
In response to Gingrich's comments, host Sean Hannity said: "I agree wholeheartedly with everything you're saying." Gingrich similarly misstated Panetta's comments during the May 20 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, falsely claiming that Panetta said that the "CIA doesn't" lie.
From Panetta's May 15 statement:
There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I'm gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.
Let me be clear: It is not our policy 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 Zubaydah, describing "the enhanced techniques that had been employed." Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.
My advice -- indeed, my direction -- to you is straightforward: ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission. We have too much work to do to be distracted from our job of protecting this country.
We are an Agency of high integrity, professionalism, and dedication. Our task is to tell it like it is -- even if that's not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it.
From the May 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: And we continue now with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Mr. Speaker, as it relates to Nancy Pelosi, you have said she is unworthy to be speaker. You said shame on her. You said she has made America less safe; she has damaged America's safety; she has made America less secure by sending a signal to men and women defending our country that they can't count on their leaders to defend them. And, every day we spend worrying about the political -- that she is being politically persecuted is a day we are made more vulnerable to a nuclear attack on one of our cities.
Well, I really -- explain that in detail, why this is so important and why you have been so outspoken.
GINGRICH: Well, there are two parts to this.
The first is Nancy Pelosi, as a San Francisco congresswoman, can believe anything she wants to. And she can be -- she can represent the kookiest wing of her constituency. And, as a congresswoman, that would be fine. There are 435 members of the House, and we have a fair number at any given time on the right and the left might be a little bit unusual or a little bit out to lunch on certain issues.
But speaker of the House is the only constitutional office in the legislative branch. The speaker is third in line to be president. The speaker has a direct concern for national security. The speaker has to be available to be briefed on any issue that involves this country's future and to be briefed on secrets that are, frankly, pretty darn important.
I thought that, measured as speaker of the House, what Speaker Pelosi did last Thursday was totally unacceptable. And if you watched the press conference, which I think is now available on YouTube, you will see how unacceptable it was.
The first issue was whether or not, in 2002, she was, as the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, being given certain information. She claims she was not given it. Other people claim she was given it. That should be a matter for investigation by the House, as to whether or not she is lying.
But the second thing she did was, in trying to defend herself, she went on to say that the CIA lies all the time to Congress.
That is a terrible falsehood. It is illegal. And, in fact, I was very impressed on Friday when former Democratic congressman, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, Leon Panetta, now the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, sent out an email to all of his employees at the Central Intelligence Agency, pointing out very explicitly -- this is a former Democratic congressman -- saying that they did brief in 2002 accurately; saying that it is a falsehood to suggest that the CIA lies to the Congress, that that is against the law, and the CIA, as an institution of the United States government, must obey the law.
I felt that, to smear every man and woman in our intelligence service who is out there risking their life trying to defend America from terrorists, trying to defend America from other major powers -- worried about North Korea, worried about Pakistan, worried about Iran -- for those folks to have, as speaker of the House, third in line to be president, somebody who had that level of contempt and that level of dishonesty was simply unacceptable.