Media quote Cheney on torture memos without noting his role in matter

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

Media outlets have quoted Dick Cheney's criticism of President Obama for releasing previously classified Justice Department memos that had authorized the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques without noting Cheney's self-acknowleged role in authorizing the use of those interrogation techniques.

Media outlets have highlighted former Vice President Dick Cheney's April 20 interview on Fox News' Hannity, in which he criticized President Obama over the release of four previously classified Justice Department memos that had authorized the CIA's use of several harsh interrogation techniques, without noting Cheney's self-acknowledged role in authorizing the use of techniques described in the memos. For instance, The New York Times reported in an April 21 article that "[s]ome Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, accused the administration of endangering the country by disclosing national secrets. Mr. Cheney went on the Fox News Channel to announce that he had asked the C.I.A. to declassify reports documenting the intelligence gained from the interrogations."

However, these media outlets did not note that during a December 15, 2008, interview with ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl on World News, discussing interrogation techniques, Cheney said, "We had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross." Cheney also said he was "involved in helping get the process cleared" for tactics used against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and said he agreed that waterboarding was "appropriate." From the interview:

KARL: But you've heard leaders, the incoming Congress, saying that this policy has basically been torture and illegal wiretapping, and that they want to undo, basically, the central tenets of your anti-terrorism policy.

[...]

CHENEY: On the question of so-called torture, we don't do torture. We never have. It's not something that this administration subscribes to. Again, we proceeded very cautiously. We checked. We had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross.

The professionals involved in that program were very, very cautious, very careful -- wouldn't do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. And any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong. Did it produce the desired results? I think it did.

I think, for example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the number three man in al Qaeda, the man who planned the attacks of 9/11, provided us with a wealth of information. There was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al Qaeda came from that one source. So, it's been a remarkably successful effort. I think the results speak for themselves.

And I think those who allege that we've been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don't know what they're talking about.

KARL: Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

CHENEY: I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.

KARL: In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?

CHENEY: I don't.

[...]

KARL: And on KSM, one of those tactics, of course, widely reported was waterboarding. And that seems to be a tactic we no longer use. Even that you think was appropriate?

CHENEY: I do.

In addition to The New York Times, other media outlets cited Cheney's April 20 interview with Hannity without noting his role in authorizing techniques described in the memos:

  • An April 21 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that "[t]he release of the memos has drawn criticism from some current and former intelligence officials and Bush administration officials." It continued: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney has continued to defend waterboarding and other banned tactics. He demanded the declassification of the results of the interrogations to prove the value of the techniques." The article later noted that "Cheney maintained that the techniques were crucial to national security. In a FOX News interview, he said: 'I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.' "
  • An April 20 Politico article reported that "[t]he former vice president, in an interview Monday at his McLean home that had been scheduled before last week's release by Obama, told Fox News' Sean Hannity: 'One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort. And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity. They have not been declassified.' " The article later reported: "Cheney and other critics of Obama's release say that it exposes the limits of what the U.S. was willing to do, potentially allowing terrorists to train to those limits. Cheney, starting with an interview with POLITICO two months ago, has been on a campaign to warn that Obama is making the country more vulnerable to attack by pulling back on policies by President George W. Bush, who did not suffer another 9/11-style attack on his watch."
  • On MSNBC's blog First Read, an April 21 post by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro titled, "First thoughts: Cheney strikes back," reported that "[c]onservatives argue that the interrogations, including waterboarding, made the country safer. Some Democrats, on the other hand, want to prosecute the authors of those memos. And a former controversial vice president -- Dick Cheney -- who previously has contended that the current administration has made the country less safe, now says he has asked the CIA to declassify interrogation memos that apparently show successful results from the interrogation techniques. Indeed, in his interview last night on FOX, Cheney ... called for those memos to be declassified."

  • On the April 21 edition of MSNBC Live, host Contessa Brewer reported that "plain and simple, the former vice president says what Obama is banning as torture actually saves lives. Cheney insists the secret CIA memos -- now public -- don't tell the whole story." She then played a clip of Cheney saying: "One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort. And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity." Later, Brewer said, "You know, it's interesting that this has still become about, does torture work. It seems to be that Dick Cheney is defending torture because it's effective. In fact, he said -- and it was on a different topic -- but he was talking about the fact that the Bush administration prevented the terror attacks for seven years. Let me play it." Brewer then played a clip of Cheney saying, "We had to collect good first-rate intelligence about what was going on so we could prepare and defend against it. And that's what we did. ... It worked. It's been enormously valuable in terms of saving lives, preventing another mass casualty attack against the United States."

From the April 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: I want to go back to the issue of interrogations and the releasing of the memos that gave out specific information. Even Leon Panetta said it was dangerous. Four former CIA directors said it was dangerous. They urged the Obama administration not to do it.

Why -- why do you think they would do that in spite of that recommendation, if only for political reasons? And secondly, why is it important that those interrogations took place? I mean, the ones they were talking about were sleep deprivation, waterboarding, putting insects into small, confined areas and telling them that they were deadly insects. Why were those tactics needed, necessary, and why do you think they continue to be necessary?

[...]

CHENEY: We -- with the intelligence programs, the Terror Surveillance Program, as well as the interrogation program, we set out to collect that kind of intelligence. It worked. It's been enormously valuable in terms of saving lives, preventing another mass casualty attack against the United States.

One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort. And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity. They have not been declassified.

I formally asked that they be declassified now. I haven't announced this up until now, I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.

And I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was, as well as to see this debate over the legal opinions.

From the April 21 edition of MSNBC Live:

TAMRON HALL (anchor): Well, former Vice President Dick Cheney is on the defense today after -- about how the Bush administration went after suspected terrorists. Contessa is live at the politics desk with more on that story. Contessa.

BREWER: Tamron, plain and simple, the former vice president says what Obama is banning as torture actually saves lives. Cheney insists the secret CIA memos -- now public -- don't tell the whole story.

CHENEY [video clip]: One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort. And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity.

BREWER: Michael Fletcher is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. Sam Youngman is a White House reporter for The Hill. You know, it's interesting because in one of the memos they did actually talk about some -- a plot that was foiled because of information they garnered. Here's my question, Michael. If Dick Cheney thinks it's so important that the public know the full story from the CIA memos, why not make the push to start releasing them before he's out of office?

FLETCHER: That's a good question, Contessa. I think now, though -- I mean, Cheney feels like his legacy and, actually, the Bush administration's legacy is kind of under attack. I think despite all else that happened during the Bush years, the one thing they were proud of was that, you know, President Bush would say this often, that he had protected the nation from attack, and they see their kind of -- the enhanced interrogation technique as being, you know, part of the heart of their defense of the country.

And to sort of have it said now that, you know, there wasn't much gained by these techniques, and also kind of have them kind of tainted in the public mind as kind of almost sadist in some way, I think, has really, you know, gotten the vice president going here.

BREWER: You know, it's interesting that this has still become about, does torture work. It seems to be that Dick Cheney is defending torture because it's effective. In fact, he said -- and it was on a different topic -- but he was talking about the fact that the Bush administration prevented the terror attacks for seven years. Let me play it.

CHENEY [video clip]: We had to collect good first-rate intelligence about what was going on so we could prepare and defend against it. And that's what we did. ... It worked. It's been enormously valuable in terms of saving lives, preventing another mass casualty attack against the United States.

BREWER: And he said -- he was talking about Hugo Chavez, and he was saying, yeah, you have to treat the good guys differently than you treat the bad guys. He seems to be defending torture here. What do you think, Sam?

YOUNGMAN: Well, I think the White House is fairly dismissive of these comments. They're just not long off an election where the American people overwhelmingly voted to reject a lot of these things, be it torture or talking to people -- countries perceived to be our enemies. I think there's a lot of -- a lot of smiling and laughing going on in the White House right now, that they feel like the vice president can -- the former vice president can defend his legacy all he wants, but at the same time his legacy was largely repudiated.

BREWER: You know, it's interesting because the CIA says that by releasing this information, it's actually doing a disservice, that you're alerting terrorists the extent that the United States has been willing to go to get information. It seems like now Cheney is joining the Obamas in this sort of politics-makes-weird-bedfellows kind of thing, where he -- where they're both on the same side like OK, we're going to release these CIA memos.

FLETCHER: Well, yes, it seems that way. And it's interesting, you know, all this talk about letting enemies know what we've done, I think it's been pretty much in the public domain what's going on, all this talk of waterboarding. You know, President Bush himself has talked about these enhanced interrogation techniques -- they never call them torture, by the way. But the administration has talked a lot about this stuff; even the prior administration did.

And part of what President Obama has said, part of his decision-making in releasing these memos, was that this stuff is pretty much already on the public record, A, and B, his administration had already decided that they would never use this again to try to gain information from suspected terrorists. They feel like they have techniques in place that will yield the same information. So it's interesting that Vice President Cheney is now saying that, you know, I guess he's parting ways with a lot of intelligence officials who say that kind of things that border on torture or torture itself really isn't that effective, you get a lot of bad information, and the former vice president seems to be saying otherwise.

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