Sunday, January 3, 2010

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s withering criticism of the Obama White House’s terrorism-fighting policies came under an equally harsh response Sunday, with Mr. Cheney accused of being ignorant or intentionally misleading.

John Brennan, who is President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said he has worked for five administrations and that Mr. Obama is as determined as anyone to keep the nation safe.

Mr. Cheney said last week that Mr. Obama is “trying to pretend” that the United States is not at war with terrorists. The result, the Republican Mr. Cheney said, is that Americans are less safe.

“I’m very disappointed in the vice president’s comments,” Mr. Brennan said, describing himself as neither a Democrat nor a Republican. “Either the vice president is willfully mischaracterizing this president’s position both in terms of the language he uses and the actions he’s taken, or he’s ignorant of the facts.

“And in either case it doesn’t speak well of what the vice president is doing. The clear evidence is that this president has been very, very strong. In his inaugural address he said we’re at war with this international network of terrorists. We continue to say that we’re at war with al Qaeda.”

Mr. Brennan added that “partisan politics should be put aside when something as important to national security as the threat of terrorism … continues to haunt us. And we have to make sure that we stay focused on al Qaeda. And so that’s what I’m going to do in this job. I don’t care what Republicans or Democrats say out there. We need to continue to prosecute this war because al Qaeda the organization needs to be destroyed.”

In his recent comments, Mr. Cheney said Obama “seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al-Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war.”

Even some Republicans have noted that the Bush administration released some Guantanamo detainees who later joined violent anti-American groups in Yemen.

Mr. Brennan spoke during interviews on “Fox News Sunday” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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