- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009


The Obama administration has made the country more vulnerable to a terrorist attack by changing interrogation and detention policies and combating terrorism through law enforcement action rather than treating it like a war, former Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday in his first television interview since leaving office.

Citing “enhanced interrogation” techniques, government wiretapping and other Bush initiatives as instrumental in preventing terrorist attacks, Mr. Cheney said that rolling back those programs will undermine U.S. intelligence gathering.

“I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11,” he said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack,” Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Cheney said the plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is one of the Obama decisions that reflect a “law enforcement” as opposed to a “wartime” view of terrorism.

“We made a decision after 9/11 that I think was crucial. We said, ‘This is a war - it’s not a law enforcement problem,’ ” Mr. Cheney said. “Once you go into a wartime situation and it’s a strategic threat, then you use all of your assets to go after the enemy … you use your intelligence resources, your military resources, your financial resources, everything you can in order to shut down that terrorist threat against you.

“When you go back to the law enforcement mode, which is what I sense they’re doing, closing Guantanamo and so forth, they are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that’s required, and that concept of military threat that’s essential if you’re going to successfully defend the nation against further attacks,” he said.

The White House had no immediate comment on Mr. Cheney’s evaluation of President Obama’s decisions.

But Mr. Obama has said that moves such as closing the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay will enhance U.S. security by strengthening the U.S. image abroad. He also has said that the Bush-era practice of holding suspected terrorists as enemy combatants has been a failure because none of them has been successfully prosecuted.

As for Iraq, the former vice president said the United States has “accomplished nearly everything we set out to do” after six years.

“I don’t hear much talk about that, but the fact is, the violence level is down 90 percent. The number of casualties and Iraqis and Americans is significantly diminished. There’s been elections, a constitution. They’re about to have another presidential election here in the near future. We have succeeded in creating in the heart of the Middle East a democratically governed Iraq, and that is a big deal, and it is, in fact, what we set out to do,” he said.

Mr. Cheney also criticized Mr. Obama’s choice for ambassador to Iraq. The former vice president said Christopher Hill lacks experience in the region and did not do a good job during the Bush administration in dealing with North Korea on nuclear issues.

In the wide-ranging interview, Mr. Cheney, who noted that he has spoken on the phone three times with Mr. Bush in the past few weeks, said he “had a fundamental difference of opinion” with his former boss on Mr. Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., whom the former vice president called “an innocent man.”

Mr. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison in 2007 on four counts relating to the grand jury probe of the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity: one of obstruction of justice, two of perjury and one of making false statements. Mr. Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s prison sentence when his appeals ran out, but left intact other sanctions, including fines, community service and a period of supervised release. He also declined a pardon request from Mr. Libby.

“I believe firmly that Scooter was unjustly accused and prosecuted and deserved a pardon, and the president disagreed with that,” he said. “I was clearly not happy that we, in effect, left Scooter sort of hanging in the wind, which I didn’t think was appropriate.”

Asked about conservative talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh, Mr. Cheney downplayed the host’s recent dust-up with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele.

“Rush is a good friend. I love him. I think he does great work,” he said, adding that “I’d pay to see” the commentator debate Mr. Obama.

Earlier this month, Mr. Limbaugh invited Mr. Obama “to come on this program - without staffers, without a teleprompter, without note cards - to debate me on the issues. Let’s talk about free markets versus government control. Let’s talk about nationalizing health care and raising taxes on small business.”

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