Cheney, Once Again, Defends CIA Harsh Interrogation Techniques

In Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts, Torture on August 31, 2009 at 9:37 am

A sharp defense:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday sharply criticized the Obama administration’s decision to investigate the abuse of prisoners held by the Central Intelligence Agency as he delivered a forceful defense of the full range of interrogation techniques used by intelligence officers.

Broadcast just six days after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appointed a federal prosecutor to examine the abuse of detainees, Mr. Cheney described the use of waterboarding and other coercive methods — including threatening detainees with a gun and a drill — as legal and crucial elements of the counterterrorism war.

“I knew about the waterboarding, not specifically in any one particular case, but as a general policy that we had approved,” said Mr. Cheney, who noted that neither a gun nor a drill had actually been used on detainees. “The fact of the matter is the Justice Department reviewed all those allegations several years ago…  The judgment was made then that there wasn’t anything that was improper or illegal,” said Mr. Cheney, who was speaking in an interview on Fox News Sunday.

Mr. Cheney said he also supported officers who strayed outside Justice Department rules and used unauthorized interrogation techniques, saying they did so to keep Americans safe. And he warned that Mr. Holder’s investigation would demoralize intelligence officers and discourage them from working aggressively to protect the nation.

Mr. Cheney described the inquiry as an “intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration” intended to placate the left wing of the Democratic Party. “It’s clearly a political move,” he said. “I mean, there’s no other rationale for why they’re doing this.”

Mr. Cheney said on Sunday that he supported even those agents who used harsh interrogation techniques that were unauthorized by the Justice Department. “I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States,” he said.

“We ask these people to do some very difficult things,” Mr. Cheney said. “They do so at the direction of the president.” He added: “In this case, we had the specific legal authority of the Justice Department. And if they’re now going to be subject to being investigated and prosecuted by the next administration, nobody’s going to sign up for those kinds of missions.”

Responding to questions about the Bush administration’s Iran policy, Mr. Cheney also said he was “a bigger advocate of military action” against that country’s nuclear infrastructure than any of his colleagues. He said that was an argument that he obviously lost when President George W. Bush decided in favor of pursuing diplomatic avenues.

“I think it was very important that the military option be on the table,” Mr. Cheney said. “I thought that negotiations couldn’t possibly succeed unless the Iranians really believed we were prepared to use military force.”

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