Yesterday, Vice President Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday, where he continued to defend one of the most damaging and dangerous policies of the Bush Administration: torture. Here are some questions we wish Fox’s Chris Wallace had asked him.
Question for Vice President Cheney: In an interview published in Thursday’s Washington Times, you reasserted that the “enhanced” interrogation program has prevented terrorist attacks on the United States. You said, “I think it’s directly responsible for the fact that we’ve been able to avoid or defeat further attacks against the homeland for 7 1/2 years.” Are there any specific examples of foiled terrorist plots you could share with us?
Follow-up: Vanity Fair has published a piece calling into question the assertion that torture or “enhanced” interrogation works to produce actionable intelligence. Are you saying that Americans should just trust you when you assert that torture, or abusive interrogation, produces intelligence?
“The proponents of torture say, ‘Look at the body of information that has been obtained by these methods.’ But if K.S.M. and Abu Zubaydah did give up stuff, we would have heard the details,” says [Former FBI Special Agent Jack] Cloonan. “What we got was pabulum.” A former C.I.A. officer adds: “Why can’t they say what the good stuff from Abu Zubaydah or K.S.M. is? It’s not as if this is sensitive material from a secret, vulnerable source. You’re not blowing your source but validating your program. They say they can’t do this, even though five or six years have passed, because it’s a ‘continuing operation.’ But has it really taken so long to check it all out?” (“Tortured Reasoning,” David Rose, Vanity Fair, 12/16/08)
Question for Vice President Cheney: The Director of the F.B.I., Robert Mueller, has said that he doesn’t believe the use of “enhanced techniques” has prevented a single attack on America. Why have you reached a different conclusion than the F.B.I. Director?
Follow-up: I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls
“I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.” (“Tortured Reasoning,” David Rose, Vanity Fair, 12/16/08)
Question for Vice President Cheney: In Thursday’s Washington Times interview you said that you felt “good” about the choice you had made to authorize the use of waterboarding and other coercive interrogation techniques and you asserted that, “I think it would have been unethical or immoral for us not to do everything we could in order to protect the nation against further attacks like what happened on 9/11,” Recently, a professional interrogator, Mathew Alexander, has asserted that U.S. policies authorizing torture have cost America as many lives as were lost on 9/11. Does this information alter your assessment?
Follow Up: “I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. … It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.” (“I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq,” Mathew Alexander, Washington Post, 11/30/08)
Question for Vice President Cheney: The Bush Administration has taken the position that it authorized “aggressive” interrogation methods after field officers complained that conventional interrogation approaches were not working. The Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody, portions of which were released earlier this month after being unanimously endorsed by the Committee’s Democrats and Republicans, paints a different picture. The report finds that the impetus for harsher practices came from officials in Washington. In particular, the report describes that, as early as December 2001, Defense Department officials looked to a military training program for information on how techniques designed to prepare American servicemembers for torture in enemy hands could be adapted for use by American interrogators. Have you read the SASC report? Do you dispute its findings?
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We are hopeful that when the new administration takes office in January, the “debate” about torture will be over, and the United States can reclaim its moral leadership and finally expunge the stain that torture has left on our nation. The Obama Administration should act quickly to restore America’s commitment to humane treatment, enforce the many laws against such abuses, and hold those have violated these laws accountable.