Cheney: Interrogations saved 'hundreds of thousands' of lives
Former vice president Dick Cheney insisted Sunday that intelligence extracted from tough interrogations of suspected Al-Qaeda militants had saved "perhaps hundreds of thousands" of US lives, AFP reported.
Defending anew the former administration's controversial policies, Cheney accused President Barack Obama's team of sitting on memoranda that he said would justify his claim about the value of the intelligence produced.
"No regrets. I think it was absolutely the right thing to do," he said on CBS television, adamant that techniques decried by critics as torture were essential to break the resistance of captured extremists.
"I'm convinced, absolutely convinced, that we saved thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of lives," Cheney said, arguing again that Al-Qaeda was bent on attacking a US city with a nuclear device.
In one of his first acts as president, Obama reversed predecessor George W. Bush's approval of harsh interrogation methods such as "waterboarding," or simulated drowning.
Bush had full knowledge of the program, Cheney said. "This was a presidential-level decision. He signed off on it."
Recently released memos detail the legal reasoning used by Bush administration officials to justify waterboarding and other techniques such as sleep deprivation, physical slaps and painful "stress positions."
Cheney reaffirmed his belief that Obama had made the United States more vulnerable to attack, and hit out at talk by Democratic lawmakers that Bush legal officials should face prosecution.
The former vice president challenged Obama's administration to declassify two memos that he said showed the Central Intelligence Agency had profited from the interrogations to thwart acts of terrorism.
"The memos do exist. I have seen them. I had them in my files at one time. Now everything is part of the National Archives. I'm sure the agency (CIA) has copies of those materials," he said.
"If we're going to have this debate, it ought to be a complete debate. Those memos ought to be out there for people to look at and journalists like yourself to evaluate in terms of what we were able to accomplish."
Obama's national security advisor, General James Jones, issued a terse retort to Cheney's claim that the United States was now less safe from attack.
"Oh, I don't believe that," the former supreme commander of NATO told ABC television, rebutting Cheney's arguments for pursuing the interrogations and for detaining terror suspects without trial in Guantanamo Bay.
"And I think frankly in the Bush administration, there wasn't complete agreement with the vice president on that score," Jones said.
Obama, he added, was "absolutely committed" to upholding the rule of law while protecting the nation.
While Bush has kept a low profile since leaving office, Cheney has repeatedly gone on the airwaves to defend his own legacy as probably the most powerful US vice president ever.
"If I don't speak out, then where do we find ourselves? Then the critics have free run and there isn't anybody there on the other side to tell the truth," he said, adding he was prepared to testify in Congress if necessary.
Cheney also lashed out at his one-time cabinet rival, former secretary of state Colin Powell, who became a figure of scorn for right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh after endorsing Obama for the presidency.
"If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh, I think," he said. "I think my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican."