'This Week' Transcript: Former Vice President Dick Cheney

In other words, all of those released from Guantanamo that have gone back into the fight were released by your administration. Can't you make the case that the Obama administration has actually been more responsible about releasing who they release from Guantanamo?

CHENEY: I wouldn't make that -- I wouldn't make that case, John. I think -- as I recall, the percentage that we had of the recidivists was 12 percent. And we released prisoners back basically to their home countries, partly because the State Department was under enormous pressure to do so, and there was an effort to try to return them. The Saudis had a rehabilitation program for returned Saudis, and...

KARL: Did you oppose those releases?

CHENEY: I did. I didn't think that releasing anybody was the right thing to do, unless you had evidence that, you know, there was a mistake of some kind or they'd been -- been before a commission and you'd reviewed their case and found that the case didn't stand up, and that was usually the case. They were put through a thorough scrub before they were released.

Obviously, some of them got through the filter. But I think, out of the ones that remain, those are the real hard core, and I think your recidivist rate would be far higher than it was on those that have already been released.

It's a tough problem; I'll be the first to admit it. But I think you have to have a facility like Guantanamo to hold these individuals who are members of Al Qaida, who've tried to kill Americans, and who -- when they're released, they'll go back out and try to kill Americans again.

KARL: I'd like to move to Iran. Do you trust the Obama administration to do what is necessary to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons?

CHENEY: I remain to be persuaded.

KARL: Do you think that sanctions can work? I mean, that's the track they've chosen.

CHENEY: Well, I think -- I hope sanctions work.

KARL: It's the same track you chose (ph).

CHENEY: We -- I certainly would hope sanctions would work, but I think they're most likely to work if you keep the military option on the table. I don't think you want to eliminate the military -- the possibility of military action. I think that's essential to give any kind of meaning at all to negotiations over sanctions.

KARL: How close did you come -- how close did the Bush administration come to taking military action against Iran?

CHENEY: Well, I would -- some of that I can't talk about, obviously, still. I'm sure it's still classified. We clearly never made the decision -- we never crossed over that line of saying, "Now we're going to mount a military operation to deal with the problem."

The president was always hopeful -- and I think everybody else was, too -- that we could find a way to deal with it within having to resort to military force. One of the problems that the Obama administration inherited was the Iranian problem, and it's a tough one.

KARL: David Sanger of the New York Times says that the Israelis came to you -- came to the administration in the final months and asked for certain things, bunker-buster bombs, air-to-air refueling capability, overflight rights, and that basically the administration dithered, did not give the Israelis a response. Was that a mistake?

CHENEY: I -- I can't get into it still. I'm sure a lot of those discussions are still very sensitive.

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