- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

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

“It’s clearly a political move; I mean, there’s no other rationale for why they’re doing this,” Mr. Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

He said the investigation “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.”

White House: Cheney wrong on interrogations policy

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last week appointed John Durham as a special counsel to reconsider pursuing criminal charges against CIA employees who interrogated some of al Qaeda’s hardest core members. 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.

In comments echoed by two Republican senators, Mr. Cheney said that reopening the case is unnecessary because the Justice Department already had reviewed the inspector general’s report five years ago. He added that it could sets an “outrageous [legal] precedent.”

“The approach of the Obama administration should be to come to those people who were involved in [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 White House did not return a request for comment. The Justice Department, when asked for comment, referred to Mr. Holder’s statement last week announcing the inquiries.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, a Republican member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that while there was a “real question whether [CIA interrogators] went outside of the bounds they were given at the time,” he agreed that the issue already has received sufficient scrutiny.

“I really question whether the attorney general is doing what is right,” the Utah lawmaker said on ABC’s “This Week.” “What they’re doing is crippling the CIA where they’re going to be unwilling to really take the risks that have to be taken during really crucial times.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and 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.” “I worry about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA. I worry about this thing getting out of control.”

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

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate intelligence committee chairman who said she was “horrified” with revelations that CIA operators may have abused prisons during interrogations, nonetheless criticized Mr. Holder for calling for an investigation before her panel could finish its own investigation of the matter.

“The timing is not very good,” the California Democrat said on “Face the Nation.” “We are not going to be deterred from completing this study. And candidly, I wish that the attorney general had waited.”

But other Democrats quickly came to the administration’s defense.

“This is not a political process - this is a legal process,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If we want to be effective in the war on terrorism, we have to communicate to everyone that we are going to follow the law.”

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, speaking on “This Week,” dismissed Mr. Cheney’s comments because he “has shown through the years, frankly, a disrespect for the Constitution, for sharing of information with Congress, respect for the law.”

Mr. Kerry said that Mr. Obama has been extremely careful in ensuring that national security hasn’t been compromised and that the president is “very sensitive about the CIA’s prerogatives and needs.” The senator added that “a little bit of a tension” exists between the White House and the Justice Department on how they see the law.

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