Cheney defends Bush-era interrogation policies

Former vice president Dick Cheney on May 21 defended the national security policies of the Bush administration. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Cheney criticized many of the security policies of President Barack Obama and described how the 9-11 attacks affected subsequent decisions. Maintaining that accurate intelligence is necessary to any strategy, Cheney defended the use of force to obtain timely information as being granted by Article II of the US Constitution and the Sept. 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.

The former vice president discussed the highly contested enhanced interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists, stating that such techniques were the only way to obtain information necessary to the safety of the country and that he remains a “strong proponent” of the practice. He maintained that the use of the controversial interrogations “prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people.” Shifting his focus to the current administration’s handling of Bush-era policies, Cheney criticized the recent release of interrogation documents, stating that:

when … the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth. The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release. For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.

Additionally, Cheney expressed dismay at the possible prosecution of those who approved the techniques, criticizing the criminalization of a previous administration’s policies. He also said that the attention directed at the interrogations will only distract from the government’s duty to protect the country and that banning such techniques in the future is a matter of “recklessness cloaked in righteousness.” Cheney went on to discuss the planned closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, saying that the decision came with little deliberation and expressing concern for releasing the detainees into the US for trial and imprisonment.

Also that day, Obama delivered a national security speech in which he reaffirmed his commitment to closing Guantánamo Bay and his plans to try the detainees in US federal courts. Obama also addressed growing concerns about accepting detainees from the detention facility into the US, stating that federal super-max prisons are sufficiently secure.

Cheney’s and Obama’s speeches came a day after the US Senate passed an amendment eliminating $80 million intended to be used for the closure of Guantanamo until the president provides a “comprehensive, responsible plan” to do so. In April, Obama said that the memos that Cheney and others have urged him to release, to show the results of enhanced interrogation techniques, do not prove that the American people are any safer. (Jurist, May 22)

See our last posts on the torture/detainment scandal.

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  1. Obama endorses indefinite detention
    From the Washington Post, May 22:

    Obama Endorses Indefinite Detention Without Trial for Some
    President Obama acknowledged publicly for the first time yesterday that some detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have to be held without trial indefinitely, siding with conservative national security advocates on one of the most contentious issues raised by the closing of the military prison in Cuba.

    “We are going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country,” Obama said. “But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.”

    Some human rights advocates criticized Obama for adopting the idea that some detainees are not entitled to a trial. Others said the president was boxed in by cases inherited from the Bush administration in which possible prosecution had been irretrievably compromised by coercive interrogation.

    The president stopped short of saying he would institutionalize indefinite detention for future captives.

    “The issue is framed pretty exclusively in terms of existing Guantanamo detainees,” said Tom Malinowski, the head of Human Rights Watch’s Washington office. “There is a big difference between employing an extraordinary mechanism to deal with legacy cases compromised because of Bush administration actions and saying we need a permanent national security regime.”

    But Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said employing preventive detention simply because some cases at Guantanamo are too difficult to prosecute would involve the kind of legal expediency that Obama said was a hallmark of his predecessor’s policies.

    Of course Obama is reacting to Pentagon findings of a 14% rate of “recidivism” in released detainees. But these numbers appear to be significantly fudged. From VOA, Jan. 14:

    …Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall University Law School has represented some of the detainees and says the Pentagon has failed to produce evidence of early claims that former detainees have returned to the battlefield.

    “The numbers are wrong about who has returned to the fight; their numbers and names are wrong about who has been in Guantanamo. And, of course, the characterization of ‘returned to the fight’ is far broader than they would like to admit,” said Denbeaux. “What they would like is to be understood to mean as ‘return to the battlefield,’ but, of course, that hasn’t happened. So what they mean by ‘return to the fight’ is engaging in propaganda battles and criticisms of the United States at home and abroad.”

    So posting an angry message to the Internet is being interpreted in the media as terrorist “recidivism.” Cute trick, eh? Furthermore, Human Rights Watch finds in a May 21 press release, “At Least One ‘Recidivist’ Tortured to Confess to Terrorism”:

    The US Defense Department’s claim that a former Guantanamo detainee is a “recidivist” to terrorism appears to be based on a confession obtained by Russian authorities through torture, Human Rights Watch said today…

    The former detainee, Rasul Kudaev, has been held for more than three years in pretrial detention in Nalchik, a city in southern Russia, where he is accused of participating in an October 2005 armed uprising against the local government. Human Rights Watch’s investigations into Kudaev’s case found that he was severely beaten soon after his arrest to confess to crimes.

    Finally, as we’ve asked before: Is it surprising that someone who spent six years at Guantánamo Bay should perhaps be a wee bit teed off at the USA?