May 17, 2009

Rachel Maddow talks to Jane Mayer about the amount of involvement Dick Cheney had with the CIA in pushing them for the intelligence he wanted to make the case for the invasion of Iraq.

Maddow: We're trying to figure out the role of Vice President Cheney's office here in part, on the torture issue, the lead up 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 going from the interrogations?

Mayer: Well 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 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.

He was I think if you look at it carefully, many of the finger prints 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 lead up, post 9-11, pre-invasion of Iraq, he was not only getting briefed or 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 and the Vice President and people who are not intelligence agents, 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, 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 judgement. Somebody else described it to me as like being locked into a room with Led Zeplin 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 that they were in. Then there were reports of Cheney going over to the CIA and personally taking great involvement in the issues. There were reports 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.

Maddow: Jane I know that, we haven't seen it yet, but we know that in 2004 the CIA Inspector General came out with a report that everybody describes as quite damning on the enhanced interrogation program. The report is still classified. It's expected it might get released at some point some time soon. Do you know how Cheney reacted when that report was first issued in 2004?

Mayer: Well yeah. This is another example where you see Cheney in action. Basically when that report came out, it was a secret report, was given to just a few people, but all hell broke lose inside sort of the top ranks of the government. Because basically the Inspector General of the CIA who's the watchdog was saying this program is criminal. All kinds of lines had been crossed in the KSM interrogation among others and Cheney was apparently incredibly incensed and he asked to have the independent watchdog of the CIA come to his office for a private chat.

What happened in that chat we still don't really know, but just the fact that he, the Vice President who doesn't usually have a role in intelligence matters was calling the Inspector General of the CIA in to basically I think call him on the carpet saying to defend the interrogation program is really unusual.

I spoke to one of the other Inspector Generals at the CIA just to check this with him. I called Fred Hicks and said you know, when you were Inspector General at the CIA, did you hear from the Vice President? Did they ever call you into their office over there in the White House? And he said no. I mean it's incredibly unusual. This is really strange. So again you sort of see how involved Cheney was.

Maddow: What's emerging is just this portrait of Cheney being involved in not only every day matters but in just the incredible minutia of every day matters which I think if, depending on what happens in terms of accountability, I think will be a really important contextual thing to know, in terms of just how involved and engaged and directive he was about things going on with intelligence.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.