Dick Cheney Hides Behind Torture Myths To Evade Questions On Meet The Press

Dick Cheney Hides Behind Torture Myths To Evade Questions On Meet The Press

››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE

Former Vice President Dick Cheney dodged pointed questions from Meet The Press host Chuck Todd by pushing myths about the CIA's use of torture on terrorist suspects during the Bush administration.

NBC's Meet The Press Presses Dick Cheney On Bush-Era Use Of Torture Techniques, Cheney Responds With Torture Myths

Meet The Press Host Chuck Todd Pressed Cheney On CIA Use Of Torture During Bush Administration. On the December 14 edition of NBC's Meet The Press, host Chuck Todd questioned former Vice President Dick Cheney on the details of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's use of torture during the Bush administration, including the revelation that the CIA engaged in techniques that include "rectal rehydration" and detained at least 26 individuals who were innocent:

TODD: Let me go through some of those techniques that were used, Majid Khan, was subjected to involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration. It included two bottles of Ensure, later in the same day Majid Khan's lunch tray consisting of hummus, pasta, sauce, nuts and raisins was pureed and rectally infused.

CHENEY: That wasn't--

TODD: Does that meet the definition of torture?

CHENEY: --that does not meet the definition of what was used in the program as--

TODD: I understand. But does that meet the definition of torture in your mind?

[...]

TODD: 25 percent of the detainees though, 25 percent turned out to be innocent. They were released --

CHENEY: Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? How are--

TODD: Well, I'm asking you.

CHENEY: --you going to know?

TODD: Is that too high? You're okay with that margin for error? [NBC, Meet The Press12/14/14]

Cheney: CIA Techniques Were Sanctioned By DOJ

Cheney Refused To Define Torture, Relied On Rescinded DOJ Memo To Defend CIA Techniques. When Todd asked Cheney for his own definition of torture and whether the CIA's techniques amounted to torture in Cheney's opinion, the former vice president cited the much maligned Justice Department's Office Of Legal Counsel memo to describe CIA techniques: 

TODD: Well let me start with quoting you. You said earlier this week "torture was something that was very carefully avoided." It implies that you have a definition of what torture is. What is it?

[...]

CHENEY: The definition is the one provided by the Office of Legal Counsel, we went specifically to them because we did not want to cross that line into where we were violating some international agreement that we signed up to. They specifically authorized and okayed for example exactly what we did. All of the techniques that were authorized by the president were in effect blessed by the Justice Department opinion that we could go forward with those without in fact committing torture. [NBC, Meet The Press12/14/14]

FACT: Torture Memo Cited By Cheney Never Identified Explicit Boundaries On Torture, And Was Rescinded Two Years Later. The 2002 memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel cited by Cheney defined torture as an act "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." The memo did not authorize any specific interrogation method, but it provided "wide latitude" to the military and allowed the CIA to use virtually any technique like waterboarding and sleep deprivation. The memo was eventually rescinded in 2004. From The New York Times:

Justice Department lawyers later rescinded both Mr. Yoo's memorandum and the similar one written for the C.I.A. in August 2002. In a book published last year, Jack Goldsmith, who as head of the Office of Legal Counsel made the decision to rescind the memorandums, criticized the documents, saying they had used careless legal reasoning to provide national security agencies with sweeping interrogation authority. [The New York Times4/2/08]

Cheney: Raid On Bin Laden Compound Proves CIA Techniques Were Effective 

Cheney Claimed That CIA Techniques Led To The "Capture Of Bin Laden." Cheney implied that the CIA's program has kept the United States safe in the years since 9/11, citing the killing of Osama bin Laden as grounds for why he would repeat the torture techniques "again in a minute": 

CHENEY: I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States. I was prepared and we did. We got authorizing from the president and authorization from the Justice Department to go forward with the program. It worked. It worked now for 13 years.

We've avoided another mass casualty attack against the United States. And we did capture bin Laden. We did capture an awful lot of the senior guys at Al Qaeda who were responsible for that attack on 9/11. I'd do it again in a minute. [NBC, Meet The Press12/14/14]

FACT: Vital Intelligence Leading To Bin Laden Was Obtained Without Torture. The Senate report determined that "the most valuable information on Osama bin Laden was obtained outside of enhanced interrogation techniques or prior to detainees even being held by the CIA," as ABC News explained:

The report released today by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that the most valuable information on Osama bin Laden was obtained outside of enhanced interrogation techniques or prior to detainees even being held by the CIA.

Several detainees provided information about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden's courier, which led to the raid that killed him. According to the report, the information was obtained outside the enhanced interrogation techniques program.

"While CIA detainees eventually did provide some information on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti beginning in the spring of 2003, the majority of the accurate intelligence acquired on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti was collected outside of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program," according to the report. [ABC News, 12/9/14]

Cheney: Forced Rectal Feeding On Detainees Was "Done For Medical Reasons" 

Cheney On Forced Rectal Feeding: "I Believe It Was Done For Medical Reasons."  When Todd asked whether force-feeding a detainee food through his rectum constitutes torture, Cheney denied it was torture arguing it "was not one of the techniques that was approved" and that he "believe[d] it was done for medical reasons":

TODD: Let me go through some of those techniques that were used. "Majid Khan was then subjected to involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration, which included two bottles of Ensure. Later that same day, Majid Khan's 'lunch tray' consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins, was 'pureed' and rectally infused." [Does that] meet the definition of torture?

CHENEY: That does not meet the definition of what was used in the program.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: No, I understand but does that meet the definition of torture in your mind?

CHENEY: In my mind, I've told you what meets the definition of torture ... What was done here apparently, it certainly was not one of the techniques that was approved and I believe it was done for medical reasons.

TODD: There is no, I mean, the medical community has said there is no medical reason to do this. [NBC, Meet The Press12/14/14

FACT: Doctors Say Rectal Rehydration Is Not A Modern Medical Practice. According to PBS' Newshour, the technique known as "rectal rehydration"  or "rectal feeding" is a practice that dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries but is not a modern medical procedure. Newshour reported that doctors have called the practice "humiliating," and have said it has "no place in medical treatment." [PBS, NewsHour12/12/14]

Cheney: "I Have No Problem" With Wrongfully Detained Prisoners Subjected To Torture 

Cheney On Torture Of Innocent Detainees: "I Have No Problem As Long As We Achieve Our Objective."When pressed by Todd on the fact that the Senate report revealed 25 percent of tortured detainees turned out to be innocent and were later released, Cheney downplayed the program's significant margin of error saying, said "I have no problem" with torturing innocent detainees "as long as we achieve our objective":

TODD: Twenty-five percent of the detainees though, twenty-five percent turned out to be innocent. They were released.

CHENEY: Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? How are --

TODD: Well, I'm asking you.

CHENEY: -- you going to know?

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Is that too high? You're okay with that margin for error?

CHENEY: I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States. I was prepared and we did. We got the authorization from the president and authorization from the Justice Department to go forward with the program. It worked. It worked now for 13 years.

We've avoided another mass casualty attack against the United States. And we did capture bin Laden. We did capture an awful lot of the senior guys at Al Qaeda who were responsible for that attack on 9/11. I'd do it again in a minute. [NBC, Meet The Press12/14/14]

FACT: Senate Torture Report Reveals 26 Detainees Were Held in Error. As the New York Times highlights, the Senate report revealed the first acknowledgement that some CIA detainees subjected to torture were innocent:

The Senate Democratic staff members who wrote the 6,000-page report counted 119 prisoners who had been in C.I.A. custody. Of those, the report found that 26 were either described in the agency's own documents as mistakenly detained, or released and given money, evidence of the same thing.

The C.I.A. told the Senate in its formal response that the real number of wrongful detentions was "far fewer" than 26 but did not offer a number. [The New York Times12/12/14]

Posted In
Cabinet & Agencies, Interrogation, National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence
Network/Outlet
NBC News
Person
Dick Cheney
Show/Publication
Meet the Press
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