Schieffer let Cheney falsely equate harsh interrogation techniques, U.S. military training

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

Bob Schieffer did not challenge Dick Cheney's false comparison between the harsh techniques used in the interrogations of CIA detainees and those used in the U.S. military's training programs, nor Cheney's repetition of the myth that more than 60 former Guantánamo detainees have returned to the fight.

On the May 10 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer did not challenge former Vice President Dick Cheney's false comparison between the harsh techniques used in the interrogations of CIA detainees and those used in the U.S. military's training programs. Cheney asserted that "[t]he fact of the matter is these techniques that we're talking about are used on our own people. In the SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape] program that, in effect, trains our people with respect to capture and evasion and so forth, and escape, a lot of them go through these same exact procedures." However, as Media Matters for America has noted, officials familiar with both the techniques used in harsh interrogations and those used in military training programs have said that such a comparison is false; those who undergo certain interrogation techniques in such training programs are aware that there are safeguards and know they can stop the training immediately if necessary.

According to a recently released May 2005 Office of Legal Counsel memo by Steven G. Bradbury, the Bush administration's principal deputy assistant attorney general at the time, individuals undergoing the U.S. military's SERE training are "obviously in a very different situation from detainees undergoing interrogation; SERE trainees know it is part of a training program, not a real-life interrogation regime, they presumably know it will last only a short time, and they presumably have assurances that they will not be significantly harmed by the training." Moreover, a report released on April 22 by the Senate Armed Services Committee states that "[t]here are fundamental differences between a SERE school exercise and a real world interrogation."

Later during the interview, Schieffer did not challenge Cheney's repetition of the myth that more than 60 former Guantánamo Bay detainees have returned to the fight. Cheney asserted that "we've released hundreds [from Guantánamo], already, of the less-threatening types. About 12 percent of them ... went back into the fight, as terrorists." Sixty is 12 percent of the approximately 500 detainees who have been either transferred or released from the Guantánamo Bay detention center since it opened in January 2002. In fact, the Department of Defense has stated that 18 former Guantánamo detainees have been "confirmed" as having "return[ed] to the fight." During a January 13 press conference, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell announced "updated recidivism numbers of people who have been at Guantanamo": "We now believe ... that the overall known terrorist reengagement rate" is "11 percent. The new numbers are, we believe, 18 confirmed and 43 suspected of returning to the fight. So 61 in all former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight."

Even the Pentagon's claim that it has confirmed that 18 former Guantánamo detainees have "return[ed] to the fight" has been questioned by analysts. For instance, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen stated on the January 23 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360: "[W]hen you really boil it down, the actual number of people whose names we know are about eight out of the 520 that have been released [from Guantánamo], so a little above 1 percent, that we can actually say with certainty have engaged in anti-American terrorism or insurgence activities since they have been released. ... If the Pentagon releases more information about specific people, I think it would be possible to -- to potentially agree with them. But, right now, that information isn't out there."

Additionally, as Media Matters has noted, Seton Hall Law School professor Mark Denbeaux has disputed the Pentagon's figures, asserting that the Defense Department's most recent "attempt to enumerate the number of detainees who have returned to the battlefield is false by the Department of Defense's own data and prior reports." Denbeaux has written several reports about Guantánamo detainees, including reports challenging the Pentagon's definition of "battlefield" capture and the Pentagon's published detainee recidivism rates.

From the May 10 edition of CBS's Face the Nation:

SCHIEFFER: What do you say to those, Mr. Vice President, who say that when we employ these kind of tactics -- which are, after all, the tactics that the other side uses -- that when we adopt their methods that we're weakening security, not enhancing security, because it sort of makes a mockery of what we tell the rest of the world?

CHENEY: Well, then you'd have to say that, in effect, we are prepared to sacrifice American lives rather than run an intelligent interrogation program that would provide us the information we would need to protect America.

The fact of the matter is these techniques that we're talking about are used on our own people. In the SERE program that, in effect, trains our people with respect to capture and evasion and so forth, and escape, a lot of them go through these same exact procedures.

SCHIEFFER: Do you --

CHENEY: Now --

SCHIEFFER: Is what you're saying here is that we should do anything if we could get information?

[...]

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about Guantánamo. President Obama said it's going to be closed within a year; it's proved to be a little more complicated than perhaps some in the administration thought it was going to be. Now you've got Congress in a real uproar about if these people are brought to prisons in this country.

We've had resolutions introduced up there on the Hill that, unless a state legislature gives the go ahead, you can't put them into a prison any place in that particular state. But can we ask other countries to take these people back, Mr. Vice President, if we're not willing to take them back in this country?

CHENEY: Well, we have asked other countries to take them back, and they've refused. I can remember a situation before we left office where we were trying to find a home for some Uighurs who were generally believed not to be all that big a threat. They ended up in Albania, because Albania was the only country in the world that would take them. What's left -- we've released hundreds, already, of the less-threatening types. About 12 percent of them, nonetheless, went back into the fight, as terrorists.

The group that's left, the 245 or so, these are the worst of the worst. This is the hard core. You'd have a recidivism rate out of this group of maybe 50 or 60 percent. They want to get out, because they want to kill more Americans. And they're -- you're just going to find it very difficult to send them any place. Now, as I say, there's been some talk on the part of the administration about putting them in the United States. I think that's going to be a tough sell. I don't know a single congressional district in this country that's going to want to say, "Gee, great. They're sending us 20 Al Qaeda terrorists."

It's a graphic demonstration of why Guantánamo is important. We had to have a place, a facility, where we could capture these people and hold them until they were no longer a danger to the United States. If you bring them to the United States, they acquire all kinds of legal rights. And as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed said when we captured him, he said, "I'll talk to you guys after I get to New York and see my lawyer." That's the kind of problem you're going to have with these terrorists. So --

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk quickly about your party.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Detention, Interrogation
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Bob Schieffer
Show/Publication
Face the Nation
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