By Alexi Mostrous
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 31, 2009
Former vice president Richard B. Cheney on Sunday condemned the Justice Department's decision to investigate suspected CIA prisoner abuses, reiterated his assertion that enhanced interrogation techniques worked in revealing terror plots, and indicated that he may not cooperate with the prosecutor assigned to the case.
Cheney accused President Obama of setting a "terrible precedent" by allowing an "intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration." Asked whether he would talk to John Durham, the veteran prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to examine allegations that the CIA abused Sept. 11 terror suspects, Cheney said: "It will depend on the circumstances and what I think their activities are really involved in."
Holder announced the investigation last Monday, the same day that a long-awaited inspector general's review of the agency's interrogation methods was released.
"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," Cheney said in a taped Fox News interview that was aired Sunday.
The 2004 inspector general's report concluded that some CIA interrogators went beyond Bush administration rules permitting the use of techniques such as waterboarding, or simulated drowning. Terrorists disclosed more information after being subjected to the controversial methods, which included threatened executions and the use of a power drill to scare a detainee, the report concluded. However, John Helgerson, the former IG who commissioned the 2004 study, said Saturday that his office's work did not permit "definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of particular interrogation methods."
Former intelligence officials have also been quoted saying there was no way of knowing whether information gained during harsh interrogations could have been obtained in other ways.
Cheney called the techniques "good policy" and said he was comfortable in cases where interrogators went beyond what they were authorized to do. Holder's decision to examine about 10 cases of alleged detainee abuse runs contrary to Obama's repeated desire to look forward, and raises the question of whether the legal reassurances of one administration carry over to its successor. "Now you get a new administration and they say, 'Well, we didn't like those opinions, we're going to go investigate those lawyers and perhaps have them disbarred,' " Cheney said. "I just think it's an outrageous precedent to set."
On the Sunday talk shows, Democratic lawmakers tried to counter Cheney's criticism and defend the Justice Department's investigation. "Dick Cheney has shown through the years, frankly, a disrespect for the Constitution, for sharing of information with Congress, respect for the law, and I'm not surprised that he is upset about this," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said on ABC's "This Week."
On CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) called the investigation "very appropriate."
Cheney also said Sunday that he supported taking military action against Iran's nuclear program but was overruled by then-President George W. Bush. "I thought that negotiations could not possibly succeed unless the Iranians really believed we were prepared to use military force," he said.
Cheney added that he was aware of a Bush administration order banning the CIA from advising Congress about a program to kill or capture terrorists. But he stopped short of saying he issued that order.
The House intelligence committee last month launched an investigation to determine whether the CIA broke the law by not informing Congress about the secret program.