'I'd do it again!' Cheney defends CIA torture, calls interrogators heroes
Former VP Dick Cheney expressed no regret over CIA torture techniques employed against detainees in the “war on terror,” even as a judge considers forcing the White House to release the remainder of the damning photos.
Cheney was apparently unfazed by the cruel accounts of torture techniques performed by the CIA at various foreign “black sites” as described in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s lengthy investigation.
"I'd do it again in a minute," Cheney told Meet the Press's Chuck Todd on Sunday.
The former vice president, who critics say exerted a disproportionate amount of influence inside of the Bush administration, recalled those horrific moments on the morning of 9/11 to defend America’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to get information from detainees.
"Torture to me…is an American citizen on his cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters, shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York," he said.
Far from suggesting punishment for the interrogators, Cheney believes they are worthy of praise for their controversial actions.
"I'm perfectly comfortable that they should be praised, they should be decorated," he declared.
At the same time, Cheney remained adamant when reminded that at least 26 of 119 detainees were cleared of any links to terrorist organizations.
"I'm more concerned with the bad guys that were released than the few that were, in fact, innocent," he said, while mentioning that the individual who went on to lead the Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL], Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was incarcerated by the US military in Iraq before being set free in 2004.
In addition to the torture technique known as water boarding, which creates the sensation of drowning, Todd pressed Cheney on other lesser-known practices, including the treatment of detainee Abu Zubaydah, who was placed in a coffin-size confinement box for a total of 266 hours (11 days, 2 hours) over a 20-day period, as well as forced to remain in a small confinement box (21 inches wide, 2.5 feet in length) for 29 hours.
Torture is wrong, even if it "works," for the same reason that Mengele-style experiments are wrong, even if they yield useful medical data.
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) December 15, 2014
Another detainee had one or both wrists handcuffed to an overhead bar that would not allow him to lower his arm for 22 hours each day for two consecutive days in order to “break his resistance.”
When questioned about so-called rectal feeding, which at least five detainees were purportedly subjected to, Cheney said it was part of the approved program and probably administered for "medical reasons." Todd challenged Cheney on that account, saying his explanation contradicts the Senate report findings, which says there was no medical need for rectal hydration in the detainees.
Cheney forgets that decades of CIA torture led to 9/11, not the other way around.
— Max Keiser (@maxkeiser) December 14, 2014
Despite the harsh public backlash over the program, the number two man in the Bush administration remains convinced that the CIA interrogation program helped the United States to protect itself from future terrorist attacks on the homeland.
"It worked, it absolutely worked," Cheney said, while going on to slam the report, saying it was “seriously flawed.”
“They didn’t talk to anybody who knew anything about the program; they didn’t talk to anybody who was in the program.”
Cheney defended the CIA’s approved methods of interrogation, saying US soldiers could expect far worse in the event they are taken prisoner.
"He's not likely to be waterboarded, he's likely to have his head cut off," Cheney said, adding that the technique "produced phenomenal results for us."
Cheney also hit back at the report's finding that former President George W. Bush was unaware of the program’s details, saying the Republican leader "knew what we were doing, he authorized it, he approved it."
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is said to be sitting on many more photographs detailing detainee abuse at the hands of the United States military.
Some photographs show US troops “posing with corpses; others depict US forces holding guns to people’s heads or simulating forced sodomization,” the Daily Beast reported.
The White House faces a Friday deadline to submit to a federal court its argument as to why more photographs of detainees being tortured should be prevented from being released into the public realm.