Obama on Cheney: Waterboarding is Torture

By Jennifer Parker

Jan 11, 2009 9:12am

During our exclusive interview, I asked the president-elect about a series of Vice President Dick Cheney’s exit interviews in which he argued the Bush counterterrorism policies have made the United States safer.

During a recent interview with CBS, Cheney had this advice for Obama: "Before you start to implement your campaign rhetoric you need to sit down and find out precisely what it is we did and how we did it. Because it is going to be vital to keeping the nation safe and secure in the years ahead and it would be a tragedy if they threw over those policies simply because they’ve campaigned against them."

So I asked Obama … is he going to take Cheney’s advice?

"I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what’s going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn’t be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric," Obama said. "So, I’ve got no problem with that particular quote. I think if Vice President Cheney were here, he and I would have some significant disagreements on some things that we know happened."

Obama slammed Cheney for his public defense of "extraordinary" interrogation methods.

"Vice President Cheney I think continues to defend what he calls extraordinary measures or procedures and from my view waterboarding is torture. I have said that under my administration we will not torture," Obama said.

"How about them taking that to the next step. Right now the CIA has a special program, would you require that that program — basically every government interrogation program be under the same standard, be in accordance with the army field manual?" I asked Obama.

"My general view is that our United States military is under fire and has huge stakes in getting good intelligence. And if our top army commanders feel comfortable with interrogation techniques that are squarely within the boundaries of rule of law, our Constitution and international standards, then those are things that we should be able to," he said. 

Obama said, "The interesting thing George was that during the campaign, although John McCain and I had a lot of differences on a lot of issues, this is one where we didn’t have a difference, which is that it is possible for us to keep the American people safe while still adhering to our core values and ideals and that’s what I intend to carry forward in my administration."

–George Stephanopoulos

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