Former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the Bush administration's actions a day after the Senate Intelligence Committee report blasted the CIA for what it called torture against terror suspects during his tenure.
Appearing Wednesday on Fox News Channel's "Special Report," Cheney called the report "a terrible piece of work" and "full of crap."
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Most notably, Cheney said former President George W. Bush knew all along about the methods used on prisoners and approved of them. The administration called them "enhanced interrogation techniques." The Senate report called them "torture."
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said Bush was kept in the dark by the CIA for four years, Fox News' Brett Baier pointed out.
"Not true. Didn't happen," Cheney replied. "Read his book."
Bush was an integral part of the program and had to approve it before it could go forward, Cheney said.
Cheney said that neither the CIA nor himself ever kept any part of the program from the president. Asked whether he ever knew more about the program than Bush, Cheney said he couldn't be certain because they read different things. Bush had a larger portfolio to deal with while Cheney spent most of his time focusing on national security, he said.
"But I think he knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program," Cheney said. "I think he knew, certainly, the techniques. We did discuss the techniques. There was no effort on our part to keep him from that."
That would seemingly include waterboarding, which has been a focus of critics. But Cheney said reports of prisoners being rectally force-fed were unfamiliar to him and were not part of the approved program from Justice Department lawyers.
"The notion that the committee's trying to peddle that somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis … is just a flat-out lie," he said.
Cheney admitted there may have been problems in the program, but he doesn't think the Senate report represents what really happened overall.
"It's sort of a classic example which you see too often in Washington where a group of politicians get together and sort of throw the professionals under the bus," he said.
"What happened here was that we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that were designed to catch the bastards who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and to make sure it didn't happen again. And that's exactly what they did. And they deserve a lot of credit, not the kind of condemnation that they're receiving from the Senate Democrats."
Cheney said he hasn't read the full report and doesn't know all the allegations being made. But, he said, "Torture was something we very carefully avoided."
Justice Department lawyers were consulted as to what was legal, he said.
Cheney defended the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11.
"He is in our possession, and we know he is the architect, and what are we supposed to do, kiss him on both cheeks, and say, 'Please, please, tell us what you know?'" Cheney said.
"We did exactly what needed to be done in order to catch those who were guilty on 9/11 and to prevent a further attack. And we were successful on both parts."
Baier noted that the Senate report said the EITs were not successful.
"The report's full of crap," Cheney said.
When Baier pointed out the that report showed that one person died in captivity, Cheney responded, "Three-thousand Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys did, and I have no sympathy for them."
Noting that he and Republican Sen. John McCain disagree on the program's use, Cheney said, "I think that what needed to be done was done. I think we were perfectly justified in doing it, and I'd do it again in a minute."
He said that at the time there were fears al-Qaida was trying to get nuclear weapons, and America was also being hit by anthrax attacks.
President Barack Obama's use of drones is one rare place where Cheney agrees with Bush's Democratic successor. But like other Obama critics, he said they are overused, and noted that Obama only kills terrorists instead of capturing them to get information.
"If they got [Ayman al-]Zawahiri tomorrow – the current head of al-Qaida – what would they do with him?" Cheney said. "I'm perfectly happy to see him dead, but he's a very valuable source of information and intelligence."
Cheney dismissed former CIA Director Leon Panetta's claims that no intelligence gained from the program stopped a terror attack.
"I don't know where he was on 9/11, but he wasn't in the bunker," Cheney said.
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