ABC Hypes Cheney's 'Startling Admission' -- But Doesn't Say What It Was

Plugging how “Vice President Cheney sat down with ABC's Jonathan Karl for an exclusive interview,” fill-in World News anchor Elizabeth Vargas on Monday night asserted Cheney “made a startling admission about the questioning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.” But Vargas failed to explain what Cheney said to Karl that represented “a startling admission” and Karl didn't point out any “startling admission” from Cheney in the interview excerpt which followed the Vargas set up.

In fact, Cheney didn't really say anything new as he stood by the “remarkably successful effort” to get intelligence from captured terrorists, affirmed the decision to waterboard KSM and denied he's “changed.” Apparently, the “startling admission” came in his acknowledgment, hardly unknown or not previously reported, that in “the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” he allowed: “I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, that is, as the agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do, and they talked to me as well as others to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.”

Shocker: Cheney supported a policy critics and backers have long identified with him.

ABCNews.com headlined the online version of the interview by twice using the same “hard line” phrase, “Exclusive: Cheney Holds Hard-Line Stance; In an Exclusive Interview with ABC News, Vice President Dick Cheney Opens Up About His Hard-Line Tactics.” The posting cites no “startling admission” from Cheney.

Tuesday's Good Morning America will carry a longer interview excerpt.

From what aired on the Monday, December 15 World News, as provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
ELIZABETH VARGAS: And now back to Washington where Vice President Cheney sat down with ABC's Jonathan Karl for an exclusive interview. The Vice President talked about his role in controversial interrogation tactics used on terror suspects, and made a startling admission about the questioning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

JONATHAN KARL: Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

DICK CHENEY: I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, that is, as the agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do, and they talked to me as well as others to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it. And there was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al-Qaeda came from that one source. So it's been a remarkably successful effort. I think the results speak for themselves.

KARL: In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?

CHENEY: I don't.

KARL: And on KSM, one of those tactics, of course, widely reported, was waterboarding, and that seems to be a tactic you no longer use. Even that, you think, was appropriate?

CHENEY: I do.

KARL: What do you say to those that say you've changed?

CHENEY: Well, the way I think of it in terms of whether or not I changed, I think a prime motivation for me in much of what I've done was 9/11. And have a changed? Well, not in a sense that I've gone through some, you know, fundamental psychological transition here. But I have been, since that day, focused very much upon what we needed to do to defend the nation. And I think the policies we've recommended, the programs that we've undertaken have been good programs. I think those have been sound decisions. And if that's what they mean by saying I've changed, I'm guilty.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center