- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 30, 2009

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday called the Justice Department’s decision to investigate whether CIA interrogators abused terror suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks a political move that “offends the hell out of me.”

“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,” Mr. Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday appointed a special prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against CIA employees who interrogated some of al Qaeda’s hardest-core members.

Mr. Holder has ordered the reopening of criminal investigations against CIA interrogators that the Justice Department previously had declined to prosecute under President George W. Bush.

The attorney general made the decision over the opposition of CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and despite the often-stated wishes of President Obama to “look forward” and not become entangled in a debate over the past practices of the war on terror.

Mr. Cheney said the investigation is unnecessary because the Justice Department already had reviewed an inspector general’s report of the alleged abuses five years ago.

He added that it could set an “outrageous [legal] precedent.”

“The approach of the Obama administration should be to come to those people who were involved in that [interrogation] policy and say: ‘How did you do it? What were the keys to keeping this country safe over that period of time?’” Mr. Cheney said. “Instead, they’re out there now threatening to disbar the lawyers who gave us the legal opinions.”

The former vice president said he believes Mr. Obama ordered the investigations due to pressure from the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, an outspoken opponent of prisoner torture, agreed that the investigation was a mistake.

“I believe the president was right when he said we should look forward, not back,” Mr. McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Mr. McCain added, however, that he believes that the alleged torture by the CIA was wrong because it violated the Geneva Convention and was used as a recruiting tool by al Qaeda.

Democrats quickly came to the administration’s defense.

“No one is above the law,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This is not a political process — this is a legal process.”

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that although she was “horrified” by revelations that CIA operators may have abused prisoners during interrogations, she criticized Mr. Holder for calling for an investigation before her panel could finish its own investigation into the matter.

“The timing is not very good,” she said on “Face the Nation.”

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