Anchor Anderson Cooper grilled Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz Cheney on his CNN program on Thursday evening about her father’s defense of the Bush administration’s anti-terror tactics. At one point, he asked, “Is it appropriate, though, for your father, who has had access to high-level intelligence for -- for eight years, to be very publicly waving a flag, saying, we’re much weaker now than ever before? Isn’t that, in fact, emboldening our enemies? Couldn’t you make that argument?”
Cooper later asked the former State Department official, “If a Democrat was doing this in a Republican administration, wouldn’t be the Republicans be saying, this is traitorous?” The anchor also questioned whether the CIA actually took care in implementing its enhanced interrogations: “But -- more than 100 people are known to have died in U.S. custody. Twenty -- I think about 20 of those have been ruled a homicide. I mean, if -- if these were just tightly-controlled things, how come so many people are being murdered in U.S. custody?”
The CNN anchor had the Cheney daughter on for a live interview eleven minutes into the 10 pm Eastern hour of his Anderson Cooper 360 program. He came out the gate using a term that he led his program with: “Is it -- is it appropriate for your father to be so out in front right now so soon after leaving office, essentially mocking the sitting president of the United States?” When she initially responded by denying that her father was “mocking,” Cooper replied, “Well, saying he’s pandering to Europe?” Liz Cheney agreed with her father, the former vice president, that President Obama was “pandering to Europe,” and that “there’s sort of a level of political nicety that’s important to observe, except in certain circumstances, and one of those circumstances is where the national security of the nation is at risk, as my father feels strongly that it is....I think my dad began to feel very strongly that somebody needed to speak out, that this needed to be a full airing of views, and not a one-sided mischaracterization of the last eight years.”
Cooper then trotted out the standard liberal line about the use of waterboarding: “But these -- these are techniques which have been around. I mean, the Nazis used them. The -- the Khmer Rouge used them. The -- the North Koreans used them. So, it’s not as if terrorists were unfamiliar with these techniques, if they wanted to train for them, and I’m not sure you really can train for torture or -- or enhanced interrogation.”
The former State Department official answered that the “legal memos are very clear, and this was a -- a very carefully designed program...that the CIA designed, that they had the lawyers look at, to make sure that the line that divided sort of rough treatment from torture wouldn’t be crossed....What the president has done is ensure that no future president can use any of these techniques. So, that’s a big step, and that’s a step that I think really does endanger the country.”
The anchor followed-up with his “emboldening our enemies” question:
COOPER: Is it appropriate, though, for your father, who has had access to high-level intelligence for -- for eight years, to be very publicly waving a flag, saying, we’re much weaker now than ever before? Isn’t that, in fact, emboldening our enemies? Couldn’t you make that argument?Later in the segment, Cooper twice brought up the “100 people have died in U.S. custody” and how “20 of those have been ruled a homicide.” The Cheney daughter shot back, accusing the anchor of “conflating things that aren’t conflated.”
L. CHENEY: I think that it is a moral obligation to stand up and say, wait a second. You know, when you --
COOPER: But you can write letters. You can -- you can have meetings with the president. He could have a meeting with the president, and say very firmly, ‘This is what I believe,’ and the president would either listen to him or not. But to stand up publicly and -- if --
L. CHENEY: Yeah. No, absolutely.
COOPER: If a Democrat was doing this in a Republican administration, wouldn’t be the Republicans be saying, this is traitorous?
L. CHENEY: Look -- I don’t think -- I don’t think -- no, and I don’t think that our political system was designed so that, when a party takes power, immediately, the opponents are silenced. I don’t think that’s healthy for the political system. I think that may, in fact, have been what the Obama administration was anticipating or was hoping for, that they could tell the American people, ‘Trust us. We know what’s best, and these tactics didn’t work.’ But I think that, in fact, what’s happened is, my dad has stood up and said, ‘Wait a minute. If you’re going to be the transparency president, and if you’re going to libel the brave men and women who conducted this program, and if you’re going to release information that helps the terrorists, at least you ought to release the information that tells the American people what we learned from this program.’
COOPER: Well, 20 people -- but 100 people have died in U.S. custody, 20 of it ruled a homicide.
L. CHENEY: Anderson, the question you should be asking is, when a terrorist has information about an attack on the United States -- as we saw in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example -- is it the obligation of the president to, within the law, be able to get that information and save American lives? And I think the vast majority of Americans believe it is.
COOPER: But --
L. CHENEY: Or is it the case, as President Obama has said, that we won’t enlist any of these techniques -- what we will do is, we allow the terrorists to lawyer up, and we will simply ask them nicely for information? Now, that puts you in a position where you are sacrificing American lives because you are concerned about the rough treatment of terrorists, and that’s not where the majority of the American people are, and I don’t believe that that is fulfilling a president’s duty to defend the nation....
COOPER: ...Your father says that he is -- is speaking out for national security, and I think there’s no reason not to believe that he firmly believes this and you firmly believe this. But he is also -- and some in the Obama administration have made this argument today -- he’s essentially defending policies which the Bush administration itself stepped away from -- I mean, the Bush administration moved away from, after 2003, 2004, into 2005.
L. CHENEY: No. that’s --
COOPER: He’s also defending policies which the Supreme Court, a Republican-dominated Supreme Court, repeatedly, or a pretty evenly-split Supreme Court, repeatedly have rejected. And, so, isn’t --
L. CHENEY: That’s also wrong. No, I disagree with you, Anderson.
COOPER: In fact, he actually defending, then, his legacy more than national security, because --
L. CHENEY: No, that’s -- that’s not fair. Look, in the case of the Supreme Court, you know, what happened was, the Bush administration worked very hard, after Supreme Court decisions -- which I happen to think were wrong in a number of instances -- but worked very hard to make sure that things like the military commissions program were consistent with the law of the land. So, in fact, the programs that we were running at the end of the administration were consistent with those decisions. With respect to enhanced interrogation, the fact that it stopped after a certain point proves the point that it was used on hardened terrorists, it was used at a time in our nation’s history when we had very little information about al Qaeda, and when we, in fact, needed that information, and I would, you know, refer you to George Tenet on this --
L. CHENEY: Who said that we learned more from this program, in terms of preventing attacks and saving American lives, than, you know, the entire CIA and FBI and NSC combined.
COOPER: But -- more than 100 people are known to have died in U.S. custody. Twenty -- I think about 20 of those have been ruled a homicide. I mean, if -- if these were just tightly-controlled things, how come so many people are being murdered in U.S. custody?
L. CHENEY: Well, Anderson, I think that your question is highly irresponsible, and I think that you’re --
L. CHENEY: Because you are conflating things that aren’t conflated.
COOPER: What --
L. CHENEY: When somebody dies or is murdered in U.S. custody, then we are a great nation, and we take the people who are responsible, and we put them on trial, as you’ve seen happen a number of times now throughout the last eight years. That is not the enhanced interrogation program. And to somehow suggest that those two things are the same, I think, willfully conflates something, and -- and ends up in a situation where we aren’t able to sort of take a truthful look at the last eight years as we go forward, because we are muddying the waters about what really happened in the last eight years.
COOPER: Do you personally have any reservations about what may have gone on with these enhanced interrogation techniques, as you call them, under CIA control, or in Abu Ghraib, or in Bagram, or in Guantanamo? I mean, do you have -- do you have any doubts at all? Because your father seems, very clearly, to have no doubts.
L. CHENEY: Look, of course -- of course, as my father made clear today, what happened at Abu Ghraib should not have happened. Nobody is defending what happened at Abu Ghraib. I have no doubts at all, no reservations and no regrets, and, in fact, I feel that we all owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women at the CIA who carried out this program. I think there are Americans alive today because of that program, and I think that it is the height of irresponsibility for the president to release those techniques, so that, you know, the terrorists can train to them, and now we have our hands tied. Every future president’s hand will be tied and will not be able to use those techniques, if necessary.