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August 30, 2009

Cheney on Fox News Sunday
Posted by James Lamond

Former Vice-President Cheney was on FOX News Sunday this morning discussing Eric Holder’s decision to appoint Assistant US Attorney John Durham to see if any laws had been broken in the interrogation of detainees held at Guantanmo Bay and elsewhere.  As always, Cheney provides some great converstaion starters when discussing torture.  A few comments on his appearance:

In response to Holder’s decision to investigate whether or not crimes had been committed Cheney said:

I think it's a terrible decision. President Obama made the announcement some weeks ago that this would not happen, that his administration would not go back and look at or try to prosecute CIA personnel. And the effort now is based upon the inspector general's report that was sent to the Justice Department five years ago, was completely reviewed by the Justice Department in years past.

They made decisions about whether or not there was any prosecutable offense there. They found one. It did not involve CIA personnel, it involved contract personnel. That individual was sentenced and is doing time. The matter's been dealt with the way you would expect it to be dealt with by professionals.

Now we've got a political appointee coming back, and supposedly without the approval of the president, going to do a complete review, or another complete investigation, possible prosecution of CIA personnel. We could talk the whole program about the negative consequences of that, about the terrible precedent it sets, to have agents involved, CIA personnel involved, in a difficult program that's approved by the Justice Department, approved by the National Security Council, and the Bush administration, and then when a new administration comes in, it becomes political.
They may find themselves dragged up before a grand jury, have to hire attorneys on their own because the Justice Department won't provide them with counsel.

It's a terrible, terrible precedent.

First I am a little confused.  Is the problem with Holder’s decision that he is conducting a political witch hunt as a “political appointee” or is it that he is not working with the approval of the President.  Unlike what Cheney's view of the Justice Department, Holder is aparently not taking political agendas into consideration at the Justice Department. 

I also liked how he  added that the CIA employees will be forced to pay for their own legal fees, even though it was reported yesterday that Leon Panetta decided that the agency will ensure legal protection for officers involved in in the investigation. 

Another more troubling excerpt from the interview is:

CHENEY: ... It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well.
WALLACE: So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it?

I have always found it both disturbing and amusing how the torture-defenders continue to change their arguments defending the abuses.  They have gone from saying that the abuses are consistent with the Geneva Conventions to saying that waterboarding is not torture to saying it has worked and we need it to keep us safe even if it is not morally just.  Now Cheney is saying that he is ok with torture, even when he admits it is illegal.  Considering that what he is considering legal is already controversial, the bar was already pretty low.

One last comment.  When discussing the creation of the newly formed High-value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) Cheney said:

CHENEY: I think the move to set up this -- what is it called, the HIG Group?
CHENEY: It's not even clear who's responsible. The Justice Department is, then they claim they aren't. The FBI is responsible and they claim they aren't. It's some kind of interagency process by which they're going to be responsible for interrogating high-value detainees.

To me, the President has made it pretty clear who is in charge: he is.  One of main points of bringing the HIG under the responsibility of the White House is that the president is ultimately the one in charge and he is personally taking responsibility for interrogation process.  This unlike the Bush-Cheney model, where when there were abuses they would simply blame it on “few bad apples” at Abu Ghraib. 

All in all, Cheney has once again trying to defend his failed legacy and failures in office.  He has even continued to the idea that there are memos proving that torture has worked, even though as Spencer points out the documents released this week, that Cheney said prove that torture works, actually only say that information was gained from detainees, not that it was gained from torturing detainees.


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