Norah O'Donnell slaps down Liz Cheney over the use of torture, what is 'torture' and her father's role in it
By John Amato April 23, 2009 3:00 pm
On MSNBC today, Norah O'Donnell got into a heated debate with Liz Cheney over the torture memos and what role her father had in pushing torture throug
SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape as a justification that "enhanced methods" aren't really torture because our troops were trained in this manner and it's denigrating to them to say otherwise. Huh? Now, we're against the troops again? She also uses the yet-to-be-substantiated Republican Talking Point that we got a lot of useful intel from torturing. E-mailer Margaret writes in:
In the first place, how does Liz Cheney know we got valuable information? Did she have the same clearance as the Pres and the VP? Beyond that, her rationale for torture, not being torture, because what we do to our own service people isn't torture, is making my head
L. CHENEY: (W)hat you're doing is reading headlines and talking about direction of lawyers, which is a very different thing. And there's no assertion that that's what went on. The lawyers' opinions were sought in order to make sure that the program that the CIA ran stayed within the law. And the lawyers did a very responsible and professional job of laying out exactly what were the limits of how far we could go. And that is precisely what makes it so damaging that these memos have now been released. O'DONNELL: Listen to yourself – listen to yourself, Liz, "how far we could go." L. CHENEY: That's right. O'DONNELL: How far could we go with detainees? I mean, how far could we... Torture them in order to get information? L. CHENEY: How far – no. For how many minutes you could ask them certain kind of questions. How many... (CROSSTALK) L. CHENEY: I'm sorry, it's very, very important point. O'DONNELL: It's a very important point. L. CHENEY: It is a very important point. O'DONNELL: The Geneva Convention were established... L. CHENEY: Norah, there is nothing... O'DONNELL: ... to protect our men and women in the military. So that America would be a beacon in the world so when our men and women are captured overseas that they would not be tortured. We would never want our people to... L. CHENEY: Norah, are you going to give me a chance to answer your question? O'DONNELL: Let me finish my point. L. CHENEY: I get your point, Norah, but the point is – no, Norah, wait a second... (CROSSTALK) O'DONNELL: ... America no longer cares about torture? L. CHENEY: That's not what the world is hearing, Norah. First of all... (CROSSTALK) O'DONNELL: .. and if gets valuable information, then OK, we're for it. Is that the message they send? L. CHENEY: Norah, that may be what you're saying, but that's not what I'm saying. O'DONNELL: OK. L. CHENEY: What I'm saying that is there were a series of tactics, a series of techniques that had all been done to our own people. We did not torture our own people, these techniques are not torture. The memos laid out... O'DONNELL: Did we torture other people? L. CHENEY: No. O'DONNELL: You just said, we did not torture our own people. L. CHENEY: Therefore, the tactics are not torture. We did not torture. The memos laid out the extent of exactly how far we could go before it would become torture, because it was important we not cross that line into torture.Cheney just wanted to be like Pol Pot, I guess:
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding. The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.And as Digby writes:
It shouldn't have taken any warnings. You don't have to be an expert to know that there is a huge difference between having your own people train you to withstand these techniques and using them on prisoners. And you don't have to be a historian to figure out that malevolent torture techniques have been considered poisonous and evil by civilized people for quite some time now. (That nobody even bothered to find out where these techniques came from is just another example of the "Brownification" of the US Government under the idiot Republicans.) It was bloodlust, plain and simple. They gave themselves permission to become barbarians. That we now have even more proof they consciously sent these SERE techniques to Iraq to "Gitmoize" it --- a country which we invaded under false pretenses and which had not attacked us first --- takes these crimes to yet another level. If nothing else, allowing a bunch of low level grunts to pay the price while the men and women who gave the orders publicly pretended they were appalled at the behavior they themselves had sanctioned, makes all arguments that these leaders shouldn't be held accountable completely untenable.Marcy gives the shorter Liz Cheney: "I'm proud my daddy is the prime mover of torture." Full transcript below the fold: NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Also, there may be some new information today on who signed off on tough tactics to question terrorists. The Senate Intelligence Committee now says Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice helped direct a small group of Justice Department lawyers who wrote memos authorizing these harsh interrogation practices. Also, Rice gave the first verbal OK for the use of waterboarding in July 2002. Liz Cheney is a former deputy assistant secretary of state during the Bush administration and the daughter of the former vice president, Dick Cheney. Liz, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us. LIZ CHENEY, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Thanks, Norah. Good to be here. O'DONNELL: Did the former vice president, Dick Cheney, was he the prime mover behind directing this small group of Justice Department lawyers to come up with an authorization for these harsh tactics? L. CHENEY: That's actually not what the document says that you're referring to. There's absolutely no question that this was a program that was widely approved and supported within the administration. I think there's no secret here that the National Security Council reviewed the program. The National Security Council ensured that it had legal approval before going forward with these techniques. But I want to go back to one thing we heard the attorney general say, Norah, which I found troubling. He said that he had not seen the memos or any memos talking about the effectiveness of this program. And I think it's very important for people to ask the question, had the president, before President Obama made the decision to release the tactics and the techniques, had nobody reviewed the effectiveness of the program? Had his attorney general and the president himself looked at whether in fact these programs had gained intelligence that was critical for saving -- for the security of the nation? O'DONNELL: Well Liz, we'll get to that argument in a minute, about do the means justify the ends. Whether torture justifies... L. CHENEY: Well, it wasn't torture, Norah, so that's not the right way to lay out the argument. O'DONNELL: OK. L. CHENEY: Everything done in this program, as has been laid out and described before, are tactics that our own people go through in SEER training and that our own people have gone through for many years. So it's really – does a fundamental disservice to those professionals who are conducting this very effective program and to those people who approved the program in order to keep this nation safe and prevent attacks through the program to call it torture. O'DONNELL: Liz, the CIA, on its own after 2005, stopped waterboarding on its own. The U.S. prosecuted people for waterboarding after World War II. So to suggest there's a consensus out there that waterboarding is not torture is not in fact accurate. L. CHENEY: No, I think it is accurate. There were three people who were waterboarded. And two of those people are people who gave us incredibly important and useful information, information that saved American lives after they were waterboarded. Both Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah. And I would just refer your viewers to the really important op-ed piece that Mike Hayden and Attorney General Mukasey wrote laying out why this program worked, why it was effective and what damage has now been done to our national security by releasing the tactics of this program (ph). O'DONNELL: Well, the current director of the national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said this about those particular memos, he says this, quote, "the information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances. But there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means." We have a full screen of this – no, let me, I want to put this full screen up, because this is very important. Could we please get this up on the screen? L. CHENEY: It is important, Norah, but let me comment to that. O'DONNELL: The bottom line – the bottom line is that these techniques have hurt our image around the world. L. CHENEY: Norah, I'm sure you know... (CROSSTALK) O'DONNELL: ... director says that the damage that has done has far outweighed any information that was gleaned. And in fact, there is a disagreement about whether other tactics other than waterboarding could have gotten valuable information. L. CHENEY: Norah, I'm sure you know that actually the first statement that DNI Blair put out internally acknowledged the incredible effectiveness of these programs and acknowledged that very important intelligence had been gained. And that it was only after the White House got a hold of the statement, edited the statement, censored it I would say, and put it out publicly that his language changed. So I think this is another instance where people need to take a very close look at the fact you've had four former CIA directors talk about how effective this program is and why memos should not have been released, and the fact that DNI Blair changed his assessment of the program should raise some questions in people's minds. O'DONNELL: I want to get back again – we can debate this, but I want to get back to specifically, what role the vice president had in directing lawyers to authorize these memos. Was it from the vice president's office, Dick Cheney, who said to those men -- John Hugh (ph), Jay Bibby (ph)– we need to come up with a way to interrogate these al Qaeda suspects after 9/11? Why doesn't he own up to the fact that he was the prime mover behind that? L. CHENEY: Norah, there was no direction of lawyers from the vice president. That's not how this process worked. And I think that you can look at exactly how the process worked, which is, the CIA said we have Abu Zubaydah and we think he's got important information that further attacks are imminent and therefore, we need to know what we can do. And the National Security Council met and discussed this. This is actually all laid out in Senator Rockefeller's timeline, which doesn't say what you're alleging that it says, which makes clear that the questions laid out to OlC were, what's possible and when. And if you've read the memos, in fact, that were released, you'll see that they were very, very careful in laying out exactly what could be done and for exactly how long. So the notion... O'DONNELL: Well, let me put that up on the screen, because we do have that and that's the first full screen that I was going to get to, which is the Cheney and Rice signed off on these interrogations. Very first graphic... (CROSSTALK) L. CHENEY: But Norah, what you're doing is reading a headline – but Norah, you're reading a headline from an A.P. story or McClatchy story. That's not what the document itself says. Now, I think it's very important, however, to be clear... O'DONNELL: The Senate Intelligence lays out that in those initial meetings were the vice president.. L. CHENEY: Absolutely. O'DONNELL: ... the national security adviser... L. CHENEY: That's absolutely right. O'DONNELL: ... Powell, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld were not in those initial meetings. So if those were that small group of people, why won't you say that the vice president was one of the prime movers in.. (CROSSTALK) L. CHENEY: There's no question that the vice president of the United States supported the program, as did the national security adviser, as did the secretary of state, as did the attorney general, as did the entire National Security Council. There is nobody who has been clearer about being out there saying this is a good program, this saved American lives than the vice president. So there's nothing about owning up here, because this was a good program and people are very proud of what we've accomplished. Now setting aside that, what you're doing is reading headlines and talking about direction of lawyers, which is a very different thing. And there's no assertion that that's what went on. The lawyers' opinions were sought in order to make sure that the program that the CIA ran stayed within the law. And the lawyers did a very responsible and professional job of laying out exactly what were the limits of how far we could go. And that is precisely what makes it so damaging that these memos have now been released. O'DONNELL: Listen to yourself – listen to yourself, Liz, "how far we could go." L. CHENEY: That's right. O'DONNELL: How far could we go with detainees? I mean, how far could we... Torture them in order to get information? L. CHENEY: How far – no. For how many minutes you could ask them certain kind of questions. How many... (CROSSTALK) L. CHENEY: I'm sorry, it's very, very important point. O'DONNELL: It's a very important point. L. CHENEY: It is a very important point. O'DONNELL: The Geneva Convention were established... L. CHENEY: Norah, there is nothing... O'DONNELL: ... to protect our men and women in the military. So that America would be a beacon in the world so when our men and women are captured overseas that they would not be tortured. We would never want our people to... L. CHENEY: Norah, are you going to give me a chance to answer your question? O'DONNELL: Let me finish my point. L. CHENEY: I get your point, Norah, but the point is – no, Norah, wait a second... (CROSSTALK) O'DONNELL: ... America no longer cares about torture? L. CHENEY: That's not what the world is hearing, Norah. First of all... (CROSSTALK) O'DONNELL: .. and if gets valuable information, then OK, we're for it. Is that the message they send? L. CHENEY: Norah, that may be what you're saying, but that's not what I'm saying. O'DONNELL: OK. L. CHENEY: What I'm saying that is there were a series of tactics, a series of techniques that had all been done to our own people. We did not torture our own people, these techniques are not torture. The memos laid out... O'DONNELL: Did we torture other people? L. CHENEY: No. O'DONNELL: You just said, we did not torture our own people. L. CHENEY: Therefore, the tactics are not torture. We did not torture. The memos laid out the extent of exactly how far we could go before it would become torture, because it was important we not cross that line into torture. As General Hayden and Attorney General Mukasey laid out, the problem is that now we've said to our enemies, look, this is exactly how far we're g going to go. So our enemies, who we know read this stuff online, will now train to be able to withstand that. Now, setting that aside, this argument about the Geneva Conventions, in terms of the – you know, this idea that somehow al Qaeda abides by the Geneva Conventions. If al Qaeda captures an American, they cut his head off. So I think it's very important for us to sort of take a step back from the emotion of this and say we needed to be able to get evidence about imminent attacks. We knew these guys had information, the information that was provided saved American lives, and the techniques were not torture. And I think it's important for the American people to be able to see the entire argument laid out. O'DONNELL: OK. Liz Cheney, stay with us, because we're going to have much more not only about these particular harsh interrogation memos that some people are calling torture memos, whether the vice president will participate, will testify before a truth commission, and the future of the Republican Party. We've got a lot more coming up right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world outside there, both our friends and our foes, will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they're dealing with a weak president or one who's not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests. (END VIDEO CLIP) O'DONNELL: Back with us is Liz Cheney, she, of course, the former deputy assistant secretary of state during the Bush administration and the daughter of the former vice president, Dick Cheney. All right, Liz, did the vice president just call the president a weak president? L. CHENEY: I think that he is concerned that some of the things that we've seen President Obama do, particularly on his overseas trip, in terms of not taking the opportunity to stand up and defend America when Daniel Ortega delivers a 50-minute screed against the United States... O'DONNELL: Is that really appropriate, though, to call the current sitting president weak? L. CHENEY: I think what he said is you begin to look weak and there's a danger if our enemies think we are weak. I think it's important to be very precise about what he said. But I there's a real concern. I mean the message that we saw coming out of the last few foreign trips, you know, set aside republican and democrat, as an American, it concerns me when I've got a president who doesn't stand up and say, wait a minute. You know, I'm going to defend the United States of America because we are the beacon of hope for people all around the world. O'DONNELL: He didn't said he wasn't going to defend America. L. CHENEY: He didn't do it though, Norah. He didn't do it. He stood up after Ortega attacked the nation, attacked our policies for the last 40 years, and President Obama said, well, look I was only three months old. Now, you know, that's not the kind of strong defense of the nation that I'd like to see. O'DONNELL: Let me read to you what the former president, George W. Bush, said on March 17th in Calgary. He said, quote, "I'm not going to spend my time criticizing him," talking about President Obama. "There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence." So Liz, what are you doing here? What's the vice president doing? L. CHENEY: Well, the vice president thinks it's very important when you see the country begin to go down paths that are concerning and dangerous, and when you see the current administration making decisions that really do have the potential to make us less safe, in those circumstances, I would say the vice president doesn't' think that there's an obligation to be silent. In fact, I think he believes the opposite, which is that there's an obligation to stand up and say, wait a second. You know, there are important reasons why we put policies in place. They clearly kept us safe for seven years. And it's very important as this administration now begins to dismantle some of those things, that the public, you know, understand and have the ability to have a debate about what direction we're going to go in. O'DONNELL: The latest former vice president's approval ratings, Cheney, favorable, 21 percent, unfavorable 58 percent. Is it possible that the American people have already made a judgment about whose right on this issue? They voted for change, they don't agree with your point of view, with your father's point of view? L. CHENEY: You know, I think – obviously, they voted for change. I think there are lot of reasons why the republicans lost this election. I do think that the Republican Party needs to do some rebuilding. But I think that all of that is domestic politics and poll numbers. And I think that we are at a crossroads as a nation. We're at a moment where we can either remember that we're at war and remember that there are people out there who really would like to do us great damage and great harm and keep those policies in place that have kept us safe, or we go back to treating this like a law enforcement matter. And I think when you're dealing with issues that are of that grave importance, spending a lot of time looking at poll numbers is irresponsible. O'DONNELL: Well, the former vice president is now calling the sitting vice president essentially a weak president. That he's concerned he's going -- he said essentially said he's worried that he's no longer going to ask terrorists tough questions, which I'm sure our men and women are going to ask terrorists tough questions. L. CHENEY: The question is, Norah.... (CROSSTALK) O'DONNELL: ... answer the questions, I think that's the question. (CROSSTALK) O'DONNELL: ... did Vice President Cheney get permission from President Bush to speak out like this? L. CHENEY: He doesn't need permission. But we were just watching... O'DONNELL: Do they talk regularly? L. CHENEY: They do. But let me say one thing. We were just watching Attorney General Holder, and he made a very important point. He talked about the task forces that have been set up to review interrogation techniques. And this is one of the things that's so concerning about the release of these legal memos and it's another thing General Hayden points out. President Obama said to his National Security Council, you tell me whether or not the tactics in the Army Field Manual are sufficient and you report back to me about whether those are sufficient to protection the nation. And they haven't reported back yet. That is underway. That review is underway. And in the meantime, we have released the information about what other tactics are. So it's really a situation where there's, you know, the president has not only tied his own hands, but he's tied potentially the hands of all future presidents by putting this material out before he himself even knew whether his task force was going to tell him, yes, you need those tactics. O'DONNELL: Well, the Senate Armed Services Committee came out with a report yesterday. And the chairman of that committee, Carl Levin, said essentially, there's a direct link between what happened in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. That these types of interrogation practices led to what we saw at Abu Ghraib. And I think there's been a pretty general agreement across the world that what happened at Abu Ghraib was despicable. L. CHENEY: Absolutely what happened at Abu Ghraib is despicable. What Senator Levin is saying and the report that you've mentioned, clearly you've heard republican members of Congress and republican senators on TV all day today pointing out that that was a partisan report. So, Abu Ghraib was despicable, the people that did those things are being prosecuted and have been prosecuted and punished. That is not the CIA interrogation program. That was a situation in which people were doing things that were clearly against the law and they shouldn't have been doing. And it's a very convenient thing for, you know, Democrats in Congress and people who are trying to sort of make partisan attacks here to point Abu Ghraib. I think we all should be able to say we agree that was a crime and that was despicable. And that's not part of this current debate. O'DONNELL: Well, the question is whether that led – some of those -- opening the door to those harsh interrogation tactics led to a misunderstanding that happened at Abu Ghraib. We're going to have much more with Liz Cheney... L. CHENEY: But I don't think there's any evidence that it did, by the way.