The Senate intelligence committee’s torture report does a great job of detailing when and how CIA officers used inhumane interrogation techniques on detainees. But it falls short on blaming CIA overseers, including President George W. Bush, for sanctioning the brutality. Don’t take my word for it, though. Take Dick Cheney’s.
The former vice president said this to NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday:
What happened was [the president] and I met every single morning with the director of the CIA, with the national security advisers six days a week and reviewed everything basically in the intelligence arena. … This man knew what we were doing. He authorized it, he approved it. A statement by the Senate Democrats for partisan purposes that the president didn’t know what was going on is just a flat-out lie.
Given the rest of Cheney’s interview with Todd, which included a dubious claim that the U.S. didn’t prosecute Japanese war criminals for waterboarding American servicemen, one should be wary of accepting his representations as fact. But, as the CIA noted in its response to the Senate report, Bush claimed in his autobiography that he personally approved enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002, following meetings with CIA Director George Tenet. Even if details some were left to the White House staff, the president had an obligation to ensure techniques he personally approved weren’t crossing the line. He failed, and he deserves a full share of blame.
As for the former vice president, he can be judged both on what he did in office and on his shockingly unapologetic stance in retrospect, including his blithe dismissal of concerns that innocent men were tortured. The Post’s editorial board concludes:
If Dick Cheney’s views carry the day, releasing the Senate intelligence committee’s horrifying account of CIA torture after Sept. 11, 2001, will hardly have been worth it. … “I’d do it again in a minute,” Mr. Cheney said. He, and people who agree with him, should never again have the chance.