POLITICS
06/07/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Cheney: "Mistake" For GOP To "Moderate," Glad That Detainees Were Waterboarded

Former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the Bush administration's use of waterboarding on Thursday, saying that, contrary to arguments made by Barack Obama, the techniques were a necessary last-resort measure to get information from detainees.

"I don't believe that's true," Cheney said, when asked to respond to Obama's statement that interrogators may not have needed to resort to torture. "That assumes that we didn't try other ways, and in fact we did. We resorted, for example, to waterboarding, which is the source of much of the controversy, with only three individuals. In those cases, it was only after we'd gone through all the other steps of the process. The way the whole program was set up was very careful, to use other methods and only to resort to the enhanced techniques in those special circumstances."

The remarks, delivered during an interview with Scott Hennen, a conservative North Dakota radio host, glossed over the 266 instances in which the United States reportedly used waterboarding on two terrorist suspects -- a figure that would suggest the technique was either not effective or not really used as a last-resort option.

Earlier, Cheney argued that the policies which he and other Bush administration officials pursued were, in fact, successful, and that his request to declassify information from the National Archives would prove as much.

"If anybody (who obviously has to have clearances) takes a look at the record, they'll find that we had significant success as a result of these policies," he said. "One way to nail that down is that there are two documents in particular that I personally have read and know about that are still classified in that National Archives. I'd ask that they be declassified. I made that request over a month ago on March 31st. What those documents show is the success, especially of the interrogation program in terms of what it produced by way of intelligence that let us track down members of al-Qaida and disrupt their plans and plots to strike the United States. It's all there in black and white. It is work that was done by the Central Intelligence Agency after several years of experience with these programs. It demonstrates conclusively the worth of those programs. As I say, I've asked the administration to declassify them and so far they have not."

Attributing Obama's decision to end such policies to an attempt "to appeal to the far-left in their party," Cheney was not-surprisingly adamant that investigating these interrogation techniques was a bad idea. He also called on the White House to "do everything they can" to stop foreign governments from prosecuting the Bush hands who carried out these practices.

On the domestic front, the former vice president said he was not surprised by the defection of Senator Arlen Specter. Nor was he worried about the future of the GOP. Calling politics cyclical, he concluded that the party did not need to go through a process of moderation.

"I think it would be a mistake for us to moderate. This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas...what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles," he said. "You know, when you add all those things up the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most us aren't."

In the process of making another newsworthy interview, Cheney did -- without apparent irony -- allude to the fact that the GOP would benefit from him exiting the stage.

"I think periodically we have to go through one these sessions," he said. "It helps clear away some of the underbrush...some of the older folks who've been around a long time (like yours truly) need to move on, and make room for that young talent that's coming along. But I think it's basically healthy."

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