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Biden, Cheney trade barbs over terror war

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Sunday the Obama administration is successfully following the exact same recipe the Bush administration took in the war on terror, as he and former Vice President Dick Cheney traded verbal barbs over how to fight al Qaeda and win the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Cheney accused the Obama administration of having the wrong terror-fighting mind-set and said the president has taken key tools off the table. But Mr. Biden shot back that even the Bush administration ignored the former vice president's judgments.

"That's Dick Cheney. Thank God the last administration didn't listen to him at the end," Mr. Biden said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The food fight came as President Obama and his aides sought to calm fears over their handling of the Christmas Day attempted airplane bombing and even as coalition troops in Afghanistan mounted the largest offensive in years to try to take back Taliban-controlled territory.

Mr. Biden said Mr. Obama has poured far more resources into going after al Qaeda abroad than the Bush administration, and at home is using the same procedures as the previous administration to try suspected terrorists.

"We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates," Mr. Biden said. "They are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don't know where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it's one thing, again, to criticize. It's another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?"

He said they are using the same tactics on the Christmas Day attack suspect as the Bush administration used to go after Richard Reid, the so-called "Shoe Bomber."

But Mr. Cheney said that 2001 attack came before the Bush administration had set up all the right tools. He said that after years of give-and-take with Congress and the courts, President Bush turned over to Mr. Obama a good operation that the new president is dismantling -- and said that showed in their handling of the airplane attack on Christmas.

"The administration really wasn't equipped to deal with the aftermath of an attempted attack against the United States in the sense that they didn't know what to do with the guy," Mr. Cheney said.

He was particularly critical of comments Mr. Biden made last week that another Sept. 11-style attack is not likely.

"If the mind-set is it's not likely, then it's difficult to mobilize the resources and get people to give it the kind of priority that it deserves," Mr. Cheney said on ABC's "This Week."

The back-and-forth played out across the Sunday shows. NBC's interview with Mr. Biden was taped Saturday, and ABC played clips of the tape for Mr. Cheney to get his reaction, and CBS then played clips of the ABC interview to get Mr. Biden's response back.

Mr. Biden acknowledged the administration is reconsidering its decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammad in a regular court in New York rather than a military commission. He said the key issue is the cost of a trial.

When it comes to other detainees, Mr. Cheney said the Obama administration is finding out how difficult it is to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said he can see a scenario where it is still operating at the end of Mr. Obama's time in office.

"I wouldn't be surprised. It's a valuable facility; there's a reason we set it up," Mr. Cheney said.

Meanwhile, pressure grew for Mr. Obama to oust his top counterterrorism official, John O. Brennan, after he said a 20 percent recidivism rate for war on terror detainees was acceptable and better than the U.S. criminal justice system.

"He has lost my confidence, and it is the best evidence yet how disconnected this administration has become," Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told Fox News Sunday. "I think it would be better to have a new person in that job."

Mr. Brennan's comments this weekend defending the 20 percent recidivism rate for detainees came less than a week after he wrote a column for USA Today saying that "politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al Qaeda."

Mr. Brennan's boss, National Security Adviser James L. Jones, did not defend his deputy's comments in a separate appearance on "Fox News Sunday" but praised Mr. Brennan for the work he does.

"John has a remarkable career in defense of this country. He is passionate about keeping us safe," Mr. Jones said.

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