U.S. law stipulates that someone who “knowingly and willfully makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” to Members of Congress shall receive a stiff fine and eight years in prison. Over the past few weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has claimed that CIA briefers lied to her in 2002 about the use of waterboarding on suspected terrorists.
CIA Director and former Congressman Leon Panetta denies his agency lied. Yesterday, I asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to find out the truth. Today, I am following up my request with a formal letter to Director Mueller.
Speaker Pelosi’s charge strikes at the core of America’s constitutionally designed checks and balances. Congressional oversight of the Executive Branch—including the CIA—is wholly predicated on a continuous and candid flow of information between Capitol Hill and the White House. No candor, no oversight. No oversight, no Constitution.
Some in Congress ascribe the Speaker’s allegation—and my call to investigate—to tortured political posturing. Bandying about the “politics as usual” line in Washington plays great back home but represents an abdication of responsible governance. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” with me last evening in an attempt to dissuade an FBI investigation and somehow protect the Speaker; however, on this one, I’m circling the wagons around Congress’ constitutionally mandated job of intelligence oversight and Speaker Pelosi’s reputation.
If the CIA lied to Speaker Pelosi they could have lied to me, to Rep. Smith and to the American people. An iron-clad FBI investigation would protect the sanctity of the information on which our job depends. That job, lest we forget, is keeping America safe while keeping our intelligence community accountable to the rule of law.