Maddow Guest Jane Mayer: Cheney Became 'Obsessive' About Terrorism After 9/11 (Gasp!)

Just when you thought left-wing criticism of Dick Cheney had climbed over the top, it keeps reaching new heights.

Case in point -- New Yorker magazine writer Jane Mayer appearing on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC cable show May 15 --

MADDOW: We're trying to figure out the role of vice president Cheney's office here in part on the torture issue, the leadup to the invasion of Iraq. From your reporting, what can you tell us about what sort of interest Cheney took personally in the intelligence that was gleaned from these interrogations?

MAYER: Well, I mean, I think we're beginning to learn more and more about this. He is described in my book by the number two person in the Justice Department, James Cobey, Comey as having become obsessive basically after 9/11 with the threat of terrorism. And you can see it more and more really, I mean, he's been speaking out so often he's becoming the face and the defense for these programs really. And he was, I think, if you look at it carefully, many of the sort of fingerprints go back to his office and we're beginning to sort of, you know, connect those dots now.

MADDOW: And he was going through raw intelligence at this time, in terms of the leadup, post-9/11, pre-invasion of Iraq. He was not only getting briefed and receiving the same kind of information the president was getting, he was also going through the raw materials, wasn't he?

MAYER: Well, what happened after 9/11 was, he was dissatisfied with the kind of information that had been given to them from the CIA. And so they demanded just every single piece of scrap of information about threats that might be coming towards the United States. And, at his direction, they took away the filter that the CIA had had where previously, before 9/11, the president, the vice president, people who were not intelligence experts, had only been told about things that were really possibly important. After 9/11, they saw everything. It was called the threat matrix report, it was this extensive thing they started every morning, Cheney started every morning with the matrix report and then went through it all again sitting down with the president, so he did it twice every day. And it was described to me by some of the more expert intelligence officials, Roger Cressey, who worked in the NSC, as filled with garbage, just completely alarming stuff that would just make anybody lose their judgment. Somebody else described it to me as like being locked into a room with Led Zeppelin playing. I mean, you just would lose your mind looking at this stuff. And they started it every day looking at these things.

So, that was kind of the mindset they were in. Then, you know, there were reports of Cheney going over to the CIA and personally taking a great involvement in the issue. There were reports that he had a reading room set aside for himself over there. Not all the details are out, I don't know whether or not, how many times he went over there, there are a number of people who say he was there a lot and pushing so hard on this front.

Can you believe the nerve of this Cheney? Talk about a malcontent! Using the "man caused disaster" of 9/11 as pretext, Cheney sought raw intelligence from the CIA instead of the synthesized version previously provided. Not only that, Cheney wanted the data twice daily, going so far as to start each workday with it. What's with this guy -- did he forget he worked for the government?

Not content to be fully engaged at the White House, Cheney felt compelled to drag his unseemly obsession to CIA headquarters. We're not sure how often Cheney made the trip, but based on the weary tone in Mayer's voice, Cheney was probably on a first-name basis with the security guards at Langley.

Topping it off -- Cheney demanding a "reading room" set aside for him.Couldn't he have just read the stuff in the foyer? The raw data was garbage anyway, right? 

I'm reminded of the time Maria Shriver appeared on the Letterman show to plug a book she'd written about addictions. Shriver told Letterman that addictions were not limited to booze and drugs, but could also involve food, exercise, even sex. C'mon, Letterman asked, how can a person be addicted to sex? When it's all a person thinks about, Shriver said, day in, day out, nothing else matters. To which Letterman quipped -- uh, isn't that the idea?

Mayer may find it odd that Cheney became "obsessive" about terrorism after the wanton slaughter of nearly 3,000 innocent people on 9/11. Me, I consider that a healthy obsession. And seeing how al Qaeda was thwarted from reeling off another sucker punch for the seven years while Bush and Cheney remained in office, it's an obsession Obama would do well to emulate. The post-9/11 approach to intelligence analysis by Cheney served us far better than the pre-9/11 version.

More along the same lines from Maddow on May 21, Ahabesque in her pursuit of Cheney Dick (shown in second part of embedded video) --

MADDOW: Former vice president Dick Cheney gave what amounted to the Republican response to President Obama's national security speech today. It was a reminder that Mr. Cheney has essentially been giving the same national security speech for seven years now, basically the same speech over and over and over again, but over time his language changes. His language gets fuzzier, a little more general, to account for all of the earlier, sharp, specific assertions of his that have been completely disproven. Take for example the old line about WMD. Here's how it started --

CHENEY: Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

 MADDOW: That's very specific. That was from August 2002, before the war. Then the next year, the vice president's word choice was already starting to get fuzzed up. He said, quote, "In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them."

See, the problem wasn't that he had weapons of mass destruction, but that he was cultivating them. And today, further fuzzing up of the same issue --

CHENEY: We turned special attention to regimes that had the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction and might transfer such weapons to the terrorists.

MADDOW: Regimes that had the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction. So the big, key, scary, important justification for starting a war has officially been fuzzed up from he has weapons, to he's cultivating weapons, to you know, hey, everybody's got the capacity to maybe someday get weapons, right? Want another Iraq war golden oldie? How about the Saddam Hussein-al Qaeda link --

CHENEY: We've learned a couple of things. We've learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s.

MADDOW: That was Cheney, September 2003. Back then, if you asked Cheney, his information was very specific, definite, we had details. I mean, Saddam was college roommates with all of the top guys in al Qaeda, they played canasta every Wednesday night, there were pretzels. Now, the same story now, the Iraq-al Qaeda link today --

CHENEY: We had the training camps in Afghanistan and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.

MADDOW: Known ties to Mideast terrorists. Maybe not al Qaeda that attacked us, like I said before, but you know, still sounds bad.

As if al Qaeda was not led and mainly comprised of "Mideast terrorists" -- bin Laden (Saudi), al-Zawahiri (Egyptian), 15 of 19 Sep. 11 hijackers (Saudi), Abu Zubaydah (ditto), Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Kuwaiti), etc. That most al Qaeda are currently situated in Afghanistan and Pakistan doesn't change the fact they'd take the Mideast as their demesne in a heartbeat. 

While deriding Cheney for "fuzzing up" his earlier assertions, Maddow engages in outright deceit. The relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that stretched back through most of the '90s "completely disproven"? Hardly.

What Maddow does here is engage in standard liberal sleight of hand when it comes to undeniable, pre-9/11 ties between Iraq and al Qaeda, as documented by Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard and author Richard Miniter. She conflates lack of evidence of Iraqi complicity in 9/11 with vehement denial of any links between Iraq and al Qaeda before September 2001 -- a demonstrably false claim. 

It's also worthy noting what else Cheney said at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday in the context of the snippets quoted by Maddow --

CHENEY: 9/11 caused everyone to take a serious second look at threats that had been gathering for a while, and enemies whose plans were getting bolder and more sophisticated. Throughout the '90s, America had responded to these attacks, if at all, on an ad hoc basis. The first attack on the World Trade Center was treated as a law enforcement problem, with everything handled after the fact -- crime scene, arrests, indictments, convictions, prison sentences, case closed.

That's how it seemed from a law enforcement perspective, at least -- but for the terrorists the case was not closed. For them, it was another offensive strike in their ongoign war against the United States. And it turned their minds to even harder strikes with higher casualties. Nine-eleven made necessary a shift of policy, aimed at a clear strategic threat -- what the Congress called "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." From that moment forward, instead of merely preparing to round up the suspects and count the victims after the next attack, we were determined to prevent attacks in the first place.

We could count on almost universal support back then, because everyone understood the environment we were in. We'd just been hit by a foreign enemy -- leaving 3,000 Americans dead, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. In Manhattan, we were staring at 16 acres of ashes. The Pentagon took a direct hit, and the Capitol or the White House were spared only by the Americans on Flight 93, who died bravely and defiantly.

Everyone expected a follow-on attack, and our job was to stop it. We didn't know what was coming next, but everything we did know in that autumn of 2001 looked bad. This was the world in which al Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A.Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market. We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source. We had the training camps of Afghanistan, and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.

These are just a few of the problems we had on our hands. And foremost on our minds was the prospect of the very worst coming to pass -- a 9/11 with nuclear weapons.

Cheney could be mistaken, however, in his belief that Americans are more vulnerable to terrorism since Obama took office. Personally I doubt al Qaeda will attack again while criminal prosecution of Bush officials remains a possibility.

Liberals love the dubious claim that harsh interrogation of terrorists has been a recruitment boondoogle for al Qaeda. A more effective recruiting tool -- war crimes trials for Bush and Cheney earnestly sought by al Qaeda's useful idiots in the West. Imagine what Al Jazeera could charge for commercials while broadcasting such a spectacle live to its credulous audience.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts