WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday that he sees no reason for President George W. Bush to pre-emptively pardon anyone at the CIA involved in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists. “I don’t have any reason to believe that anybody in the agency did anything illegal,” he said.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Cheney also said that Bush has no need to apologize for not foreseeing the economic crisis.
“I don’t think he needs to apologize. I think what he needed to do is take bold, aggressive action and he has,” Cheney said. “I don’t think anybody saw it coming.”
During a wide-ranging interview in his West Wing office, Cheney also said Iran remains at the top of the list of foreign policy challenges that President-elect Barack Obama will face. He said an “irresponsible withdrawal” from Iraq now would be ill-advised. And he said he’s confident that North Korea helped Syria build a reactor – a site that Israel suspected of being a nuclear installation and bombed in 2007.
After Obama takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, the 67-year-old Cheney plans to possibly write a book and spend time with his wife, Lynne, their two daughters and six grandchildren. He and his wife will split their time between their house in Virginia and their hometown of Casper, Wyo.
An avid angler, Cheney said the first river he wants to fish is the South Fork of the Snake River on the Wyoming-Idaho border.
During the interview, Cheney strongly defended the administration’s terrorist-fighting policies.
Cheney said the administration rightly used programs to intercept communications of suspected terrorists and use tough methods to interrogate high-value detainees. He also said he did not have any qualms about the reliability of intelligence obtained through waterboarding – an interrogation technique simulating drowning used on three top al-Qaida operatives in 2002 and 2003.
“It’s been used with great discrimination by people who know what they’re doing and has produced a lot of valuable information and intelligence,” he said.
Obama has criticized interrogation practices he says amount to torture and has promised to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Cheney acknowledges that there is still a lot of work to be done in Iraq, but he said much progress has been made.
“I hear a lot of people, among our critics, who keep saying ‘Iraq’s a mess, pull out.’ Well, that’s not true. It’s not a mess,” Cheney said. “We have made major progress. We have come close to achieving a significant proportion of our objectives, and an irresponsible withdrawal now is exactly the wrong medicine.”
Cheney said that Obama’s decision to keep Robert Gates on as defense secretary makes “some of us cautiously optimistic that the new administration is going to be more reasoned and responsible in terms of how they proceed, and not take action that would undermine the basic fundamental system that we put in place.”
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