WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Dick Cheney says politics are driving the Justice Department's decision to investigate whether CIA interrogators abused terror suspects detained after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"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 on Fox News Sunday.
At issue is Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to look into abuse allegations after the release of an internal CIA inspector general's report. President Barack Obama has said interrogators would not face charges if they followed legal guidelines.
However, the report concluded that some CIA interrogators went beyond Bush administration rules that gave them wide latitude to use severe tactics against detainees such as waterboarding. Three high-level suspects underwent waterboarding scores of times.
Cheney called the techniques "good policy," saying he was comfortable in cases where interrogators went beyond what they were specifically authorized to do. The CIA report found they included cases of interrogators threatening a detainee with a handgun and an electric drill.
Cheney said those techniques were "directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass-casualty attacks against the United States."
He noted that the Justice Department, during the Bush administration, approved the harsh tactics in legal memos to the White House.
"Now you get a new administration and they say, well, we didn't like those opinions, we're going to go investigate those lawyers and perhaps have them disbarred," Cheney said.
Cheney also said he was aware of a Bush administration order prohibiting the CIA from advising Congress about a program to kill or capture top al-Qaida leaders. But he stopped short of saying he personally issued that order, as has been reported.
"My recollection of it is, in the reporting I've seen, is that the direction was for them not to tell Congress until certain lines were passed, until the program became operational, and that it was handled appropriately," Cheney said.