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CIA Chief Panetta Rebuts Pelosi's Charges on Interrogation Briefings

Nancy Pelosi, shown Thursday, said yesterday that her criticism of the Bush administration is separate from her
Nancy Pelosi, shown Thursday, said yesterday that her criticism of the Bush administration is separate from her "respect" for the CIA. (By Lauren Victoria Burke -- Associated Press)
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Pelosi's position as speaker seems secure for now, as no Democrat has publicly criticized her stance. Instead, Democrats lined up behind the woman they elected as the first female speaker of the House in 2007.

Former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who was chairman of the Senate intelligence committee in the period after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said CIA officials did not brief him on the use of waterboarding in 2002. And he questioned whether information provided by the CIA on the content of the briefings was accurate, claiming that in three instances agency officials said he attended briefings on days that his personal journal shows he did not.

"That raises some questions about the bookkeeping of the CIA," Graham said on MSNBC.

Congressional Democrats said they trust the speaker's version of events.

"I'm sure Karl Rove is proud that the Republicans found a way to criticize Nancy Pelosi for not doing enough to stop the same illegal practices that they supported and continue to defend," said Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.). "It's clearly a desperate attempt to find any political traction with an American public that has given up on them."

Looking to blunt GOP attacks, Pelosi's office circulated comments throughout the day from Democrats defending her, as well as previous remarks by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) questioning the judgment of the CIA. The speaker's office arranged for several members of Congress to appear on television and defend Pelosi, who spent the day at a fundraising event in Arizona for Democratic women running for office.

But Panetta, a former Democratic congressman from California who served in the House with Pelosi, stood by his agency and urged CIA employees not to be distracted by the controversy.

"Ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission," he said in his memo. "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."

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