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.