Cheney Slams Obama Decision to Investigate CIA Interrogators

Fmr. VP ramps up rhetoric on White House' handling of national security policy.

August 24, 2009, 7:10 PM

Aug. 25, 2009— -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed the Obama Administration for its decision to appoint a prosecutor to review and investigate whether CIA interrogators violated U.S. torture statues, saying the move calls into question its ability to protect the nation.

"President Obama's decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel, and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House, serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security," the former vice president said in a statement Monday.

Cheney said the intelligence gained from interrogations of terror suspects "saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks."

"The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions," he said.

The CIA released the documents Monday that former Vice President Dick Cheney requested earlier this year in an attempt to prove his assertion that using enhanced interrogation techniques on terror detainees saved U.S. lives.

The documents back up the Bush administration's claims that intelligence gleaned from captured terror suspects had thwarted terrorist attacks, but the visible portions of the heavily redacted reports do not indicate whether such information was obtained as a result of controversial interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding.

Cheney's initial request in the spring that the documents be declassified was rejected by the CIA. Lawmakers derided his claims that the harsh interrogation techniques were necessary. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a May 27 speech that "those classified documents say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques."

Cheney has been a fierce public critic of the Obama White House's handling of national security policy.

In May, the former vice president squared off against Obama, giving a competing speech as the president defended his terrorism policies and decision to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

"The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism," Cheney said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. "But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed."

"I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program," Cheney added later in the speech. "The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do."

The Department of Justice compiled a list of documents released late Monday evening, related to a 2004 CIA Inspector General report on enhanced interrogation techniques that was released today. The two documents that Cheney requested were part of that release, but were made public early by the CIA.

One of the CIA documents, entitled "Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against al-Qaeda," and dated June 3, 2005, says "detainee reporting has become a crucial pillar of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, aiding intelligence and law enforcement operations to capture additional terrorists, helping to thwart terrorist plots, and advancing our analysis of the al-Qaeda target."

The report is heavily redacted and, at times, it is unclear which detainees are being discussed. The report does not describe any intelligence gained as result of enhanced interrogation techniques.

The report does state that intelligence from detainees has resulted in the thwarting of terror plans.

U.S. Security Forced Terrorists to Alter Strategy

Detainee reporting has helped thwart a number of al-Qaeda plots to attack targets in the West and elsewhere. Not only have detainees reported on potential targets and techniques that al-Qaeda operational planners have considered but arrests also have disrupted attack plans in progress," the report said.

It describes how interrogations of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed yielded information about al-Qaeda's attempts to obtain anthrax and crash commercial airplanes into London's Heathrow Airport. It says that other detainees, when confronted with information learned from Mohammed, revealed more about the plots and members of al-Qaeda.

One of the documents on Mohammed titled "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: Preeminent Source on al-Qaeda," noted that he was the most valuable source of information on the terror network. The report notes that the planner of 9/11 was forced to rethink second-wave attacks he envisioned after 9/11 because of increased security efforts in the United States. "KSM stated that he had planned a second wave of hijacking attacks even before September 2001 but shifted his aim from the United States to the United Kingdom because of the United States post-11 September security posture and the British government's strong support for Washington's global war on terror," the report noted.

The CIA report states that Mohammed "dramatically expanded our universe of knowledge on al-Qaeda plots … [and] leads that assisted directly in the capture of other terrorists including Jemaah Islamiyah leader Hambali."

The report on detainee information says that information learned from interrogations of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah revealed plots against "targets abroad and in the United States – including the White House and other U.S. symbols."

Zubaydah was the first senior member of the group to be captured in March of 2002.

The report describes gaining "invaluable insights" into "al-Qaeda's current organization, the personalities of its key members, and al-Qaeda's decision-making process. His reporting has contributed to our understanding of the enemy, how al-Qaeda members interact with each other, how they are organized, and what their personal networks are like."

Al-Qaeda's Hierarchy, Financing

The report describes how intelligence from detainees revealed al-Qaeda's inner workings, including its hierarchy and financing.

"Detainees have been particularly useful in sorting out the large volumes of documents and computer data seized in raids," one section said.

It later describes how one tip from an interrogation was able to pry open other sources to reveal more information.