MANY ARE finding it easy to throw Nancy Pelosi under the bus.
She says that in September 2002, the CIA briefed her on en-
hanced interrogation techniques (EITs) that had been deemed legal, though not yet implemented.
Then she maintained that the agency had told her specifically that waterboarding hadn't been used. Now we know that EITs had been used on Abu Zubaydah. That's why she claims the CIA lied to her.
The agency disputes her account. It says she was told that EITs were used against Zubaydah. CIA Director Leon Panetta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and colleague of Pelosi in the California congressional delegation, was definitive in his response: "It's not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values," he wrote in a staff memo made public.
Not surprisingly, the spat has become a proxy for the larger debate about torture. Ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich called her a "trivial politician" embarking on "the most despicable, dishonest and vicious political effort" he'd ever seen. House Minority Leader John Boehner implored Pelosi to come forward with evidence of CIA dishonesty or apologize. So who's right?
Enter Bob Graham, Democratic ex-governor and senator from Florida, who doesn't appear to have a dog in this fight. What he does have is his own set of records. Notebooks to be specific. Spiral-bound. Old school. The same notebooks for which he was ridiculed when he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.
As a Miami Herald columnist wrote: "There is definitely something strange and a little bit disturbing about Bob Graham's fetish." Others say the notebooks cost Graham the vice-presidential nomination in 2000.
The entries look like this:
12:20-1:20: MLTH kitchen, family room. Eat lunch (tuna salad). Watch Ace Ventura
12:50: Cissy thinks she's going into labor
1:15: Cissy preparing to leave for Baptist Hospital
1:20-1:30: MLTH. Bedroom, bathroom. Dress in blue slacks
1:30-1:45: Rewind Ace Ventura
Now, nine years later, those infamous notebooks allowed Graham to do what the CIA and Pelosi couldn't - "put the information of the CIA under a microscope," as Graham put it. The entries don't exactly support the CIA case.
As the agency detailed who was briefed on the interrogation techniques, Graham asked for the dates they talked with him.
They named four sessions. "I went back to my spiral notebooks, and I determined that the first three of those four dates there was no briefing held," Graham told me. "I presented that information to the CIA, and they reluctantly concurred that their information was erroneous."
There was, however, a briefing on Sept. 27, 2002, and Graham's record is labeled "detainee interrogation." He wasn't permitted to take notes, "But I did not hear at that briefing information on waterboarding or treatment of specific detainees or other interrogation techniques which would've been beyond that which were conventional for military or civilian agencies of the U.S. government," he told me.
He added: "I noted that the CIA, in describing what was briefed to me and what had been briefed three weeks earlier to Speaker Pelosi, used, I think, verbatim the same words to describe both briefings."
With that, Graham raised two significant questions regarding the CIA's version of events.
FIRST: How reliable could the CIA version really be if the agency misreported three briefings with a Senate intelligence committee chairman?
Second, how could the agency describe two briefings in the same language if techniques like waterboarding were discussed at one (attended by Pelosi), but not the other (attended by Graham)?
Graham's assertions may not exonerate Pelosi, but they are reason to slow the lynch mob. More significantly, they're further justification for releasing all the information regarding EITs in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It's unfortunate that so many sensitive documents have been made public over recent months.
But if the Pelosi-CIA rift proves anything, it's that nobody gets real answers with a partial accounting of the facts. It might as well all be out there.
In 2003, Graham theorized that his notebooks might one day become "some historian's trove of information."
I doubt Pelosi is the historian he had in mind. But let's find out. *
Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Contact him via the Web at www.mastalk.com.