Cheney: 'Can't Claim Perfection' on No-Torture Policy

V.P.: U.S. doesn't torture detainees, but can't monitor every interrogation.

ByABC News
January 14, 2009, 11:36 AM

Jan. 14, 2009— -- Responding to accusations from a top Pentagon official that at least one Guantanamo detainee was tortured during interrogation, Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledged there may have been a "problem" with the way military personnel interrogated individual prisoners.

"I can't claim perfection," he said on "News Hour with Jim Lehrer," while reiterating once again the United States does not approve of or engage in torture as a matter of policy.

Cheney cited the soldiers who abused Iraqi inmates in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal as an example of interrogators "who weren't managed properly."

Susan J. Crawford, who was named by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to serve as the convening legal authority of military commissions, told the Washington Post that the treatment of Guantanamo detainee Mohammed al Qahtani, the so-called "20th hijacker," "met the legal definition of torture." She added that she decided to dismiss charges against Qahtani because he had been tortured.

The revelation is the first time that a senior administration official has called the United States' treatment of detainees torture.

"The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent," Crawford told the Washington Post.

Crawford's description of the techniques as torture contradicts President George W. Bush and Cheney, who have insisted the United States never tortured any detainees.

Cheney addressed Crawford's statement during the "News Hour" interview.

"We don't torture," he said.

"I heard about this individual, this is Mr. Qahtani, who was the 20th hijacker," Cheney said. "He tried to get into the United States so he could get on one of the airplanes on 9/11 and fly into the Pentagon or the World Trade Center.

"[Crawford] said all of the techniques that were utilized were authorized. None of them were in violation of the basic fundamental tenets that were used out there," Cheney added. "She was, as I understand it, complaining about the way in which, or the -- well, specifically the way in which they were administered."

Cheney said he couldn't be certain that mistakes were never made with an individual prisoner.

"What I can say is that in terms of what the policies of the administration were, both at the White House level and then at the Defense Department, was that enhanced interrogation was OK," Cheney said.

He added, "I can tell you it produced phenomenal results for us and a great many Americans are alive today because we did all that. And I think those are the important considerations."