Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cheney and the CIA-Part 2. Plus Cheney on Town Halls.

"I just think it's an outrageous political act that will do great damage long-term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say,"

These were former VP Dick Cheney's words on Sunday on "Fox News Sunday" in response to the decision made by Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether CIA operatives used torture in their interrogations of suspected terrorists, and if it was politically motivated and if by doing this it increased the risks to national security that all Americans are currently living under.

Former VP Cheney did this interview on "Fox News Sunday" his first since the announcement by the AG's office that an investigation was going to take place, from his ranch in his home state of Wyoming. Mr. Cheney went on to say, as he has said many times before, that it is his belief that the Bush Administrations use of "enhanced interrogation techniques"-particularly the controversial type known as waterboarding, in which water is poured on to the face of a prisoner to simulate drowning-prevented further terrorist attacks and saved American military and civilian lives. Many people consider waterboarding torture, while others do not. Waterboarding was used on all three top Al-Queda leaders who had been captured repeatedly, including the "Ringleader of 9/11" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was subjected to it 183 times. It was clear from his use of the term "enhanced interrogation techniques" that Mr. Cheney doesn't consider waterboarding torture.

Cheney furiously lashed out at the Obama administration saying that this second guessing by AG Holder and others "offends the Hell out of me frankly."

He went on to accuse President Obama of leading "an intensely partisan, political look-back at the prior administration."

"The approach of the Obama administration should be to come to those people who were involved in that policy and say, 'How did you do it?' " Cheney said. "Instead, they're out there now threatening to disbar the lawyers who gave us the legal opinions."

This comment leads many to believe that this was the first confirmation by someone in the Bush Administration that a Justice Department classified report will recommend that two former Justice Dept. lawyers have disbarment proceedings launched against them for giving their approval to the use of the interrogation techniques.

Both of these lawyers are no longer in the Justice Department: John C. Yoo is a professor at UC Berkeley (how the hell does a Bush Administration official land in liberal bastion "Beserkley"?) , and Jay S. Bybee is now a federal judge.

Cheney further went on to say that he doesn't think that CIA agents should be put up on criminal charges for using waterboarding excessively, or for having made mock execution threats on prisoners with an electric drill and a gun.

"So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it?" Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked.

"I am," former VP Cheney answered, making clear that he is not backing down from what he believes to be right.

As to whether Mr. Cheney is willing to help out the Justice Department in its investigation, it would seem the answer is, probably not without a fight.

"It will depend on the circumstances and what I think their activities are really involved in," Cheney said.

In previous blogs I have reported on how many claim Mr. Cheney said President Bush "went soft" at the end of his term regarding his disagreeing with VP Cheney on issues like pardoning Scooter Libby and attacking Iran, and going along more with popular opinion. On Sunday Cheney refuted these reports saying that they were "wrong". However, with all the anecdotal evidence, especially what was revealed in the TIME Magazine cover story article in July, I find it hard to believe him here.

He also gave hints about his still untitled book, saying that it will "lay out my view of what we did" including where he and the President agreed and disagreed. He also gave it a little plug saying:

"Its going to be a great book."

Wow. I have to make sure I reserve my copy-once he's actually given it a title.

As usual with something this controversial people on Capitol Hill and around the country are taking sides. For the most part Conservatives think this whole investigation is overblown and completely partisan, while Liberals think that it needs to be done to cleanse the country of the stain of torture and to reveal the truth. However, well known liberal Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has misgivings about the investigation.

She said she understood Attorney General Holder's reasons for launching the probe, but "the timing of this is not very good" because the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she is the Chairperson of, is already investigating CIA interrogation and detention techniques.

"Candidly, I wish that the attorney general had waited," she said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Meanwhile in his own party, Senator John McCain (R. of Arizona-do I really need to tell you this?) went on CBS's "Face the Nation" hours after Cheneys interview and while he disagreed with former VP Cheney about the use of waterboarding (he believes its torture, and I think if anyone in the country knows what torture is-he does) but agreed with him about the investigation by the AG office being unneccessary.

"I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan," said the former Republican candidate for President. "I think these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq… I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed. And I believe that information, according go the FBI and others, could have been gained through other members."

When "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer pressed him about how he could have learned that from a member of Al-Queda, McCain replied with a story telling how he and his good friend Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) had an interview of their own with a captured "high-ranking member of al Qaeda," McCain said that the prisoner told them that pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib had allowed the terrorist organization "to recruit thousands of young men."

However, despite his acknowledgment and his own personal example that the use of these "enhanced interrogation techniques", (and in his opinion torture techniques), were in violation of international law — laws ratified by the United States that he himself has fought for - and were counterproductive — Senator McCain still insisted that Attorney General Holder was wrong to launch an investigation into the matter.

"I believe the President was right when he said we ought to go forward and not back," he said. "I worry about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA. I worry about this thing getting out of control and us harming our ability to carry out the struggle we are in with radical Islamic extremism."

"For us now to go back, I think would be a serious mistake." McCain concluded.

While the interview with Cheney on "Fox News Sunday" focused mostly on the CIA issue, Chris Wallace also asked the former VP about the current health care debate. Mr. Cheney made it clear that he is 100% against President Obamas reform policies. When Wallace asked him what he thought of the Town Hall meetings where there have been all sorts of ugly incidents complete with screaming, name-calling, and crying all across the country, Cheney said he thought these meetings were "basically healthy".

“I think the fact that there’s a lot of unrest out there in the country that gets expressed in these town hall meetings,” Mr. Cheney said, “with folks coming and speaking out very loudly about their concerns, indicates that there are major, major problems what the administration’s proposing.”

Hmmm, I wonder what he thought about the anti-war protesters screaming invective while he was in office? Kind of different when the shoe is on the other foot I guess.

As soon as anything else breaks on this I will let you know. I will say that for my next blog, I will talk some more about this, but I will also be talking about documentary film-making and the frustration I feel about getting "Vice-Precedence" done. I feel its time to say something about it. Thanks VP readers!

Matt Saxe

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