WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Dick Cheney lashed out at President Barack Obama on Sunday, saying the Justice Department’s decision to investigate whether CIA operatives broke the law while interrogating terrorism suspects was politically motivated and dangerous to national security.
“I just think it’s an outrageous political act that will do great damage long-term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say,” Cheney said in an interview that aired on “Fox News Sunday.”
He also refused to say whether he would cooperate with the Justice Department’s inquiry. “It will depend on the circumstances and what I think their activities are really involved in,” Cheney said.
Fox’s formal interview, conducted last week at Cheney’s Wyoming ranch, was his first since Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced last Monday that he was conducting a preliminary review into the actions of certain CIA interrogators who might have exceeded the techniques approved by the Bush administration’s Justice Department.
Obama administration officials said they would have no comment. But one official called Cheney’s remarks inaccurate and misleading.
Senators appearing on the Sunday talk shows weighed in on the controversy, too.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Holder’s inquiry is necessary and justified. “No one is above the law. And this is not a political process. This is a legal process to find out whether the law was broken,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., expressed misgivings. She said she understood Holder’s reasons for launching the probe, but “the timing of this is not very good” because the Senate intelligence committee, which she chairs, is investigating CIA interrogation and detention techniques.
Cheney also said on Fox – as he has before – that the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” saved American lives and prevented terrorist attacks. The techniques included waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
Cheney said that it “offends the hell out of me, frankly,” that the Obama administration is second-guessing the Bush administration.
“The approach of the Obama administration should be to come to those people who were involved in that policy and say, how did you do it?” Cheney said. “Instead, they’re out there now threatening to disbar the lawyers who gave us the legal opinions.”
Cheney’s comments appeared to be the first Bush administration confirmation that a still-classified Justice Department report will recommend that two former department lawyers be disbarred for their roles in approving the enhanced interrogation techniques.