Cheney Debates Torture Accusations

Mar 23, 2018


President Trump’s unexpected reshuffling of his cabinet has also brought with it an unexpected debate over what critics say amounted to torture in the Bush-Cheney administration. 

Many senators are already lining up against Gina Haspel because she oversaw those programs and later destroyed videotapes of some of the sessions. But Congresswoman Liz Cheney fully supports her and says there was nothing wrong with the waterboarding and other techniques employed.

"I think it's very important that we recognize that folks that sort of stand up and say well that was torture and we shouldn't waterboard, number one, they're wrong, number two, they've got to then be willing to say how many American lives are they willing to sacrifice because they don't want to waterboard terrorists."

Cheney dismisses critics and defends the program that many political watchers say tarnished her father’s tenure.  

"It's a longstanding debate and you know, obviously we are on different sides of that issue, but I think it's really important now that we're looking at confirming the next secretary of state, the next director of the CIA, the first woman director of the CIA that we be clear about the history, be clear about the facts and I'm looking forward to the Senate confirming both of those people. I think it's very important for the future of the country." 

Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul announced he opposes Haspel, which led to Cheney criticizing him.  Paul responded by saying the Cheney name is "everything that's been wrong about foreign policy for the last 40 years."

Paul says the debate over the nominees will give him and his colleagues ample to time to air their criticisms of the neo-conservative interventionist policies that marked the Bush-Cheney administration. He says most Republicans today have abandoned that way of thinking.

"You know a great deal of movement away from the Cheney's and the Cheney's have a lot of explaining to do for all the thousands of people who died in an unnecessary war."

Cheney says Paul’s isolationist perspective is the one that’s out of step with the public.

"I think that Senator Paul is wrong on most of them, probably all of them as far as I've seen, but luckily his perspective and his viewpoint is not shared by a majority of people in his party or a majority of Americans." 

Last weekend Cheney traveled down to Paul’s home turf in Kentucky to speak at a Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner. She says even Paul’s own constituents are on her side. 

"You know, it was a situation where, as I said, I mentioned in my remarks how important the enhanced interrogation program had been, that it wasn't torture and that I wasn't willing to sacrifice any American lives if you could save them by waterboarding a terrorist and that got standing ovation from the crowd. I think it was reflective and representative of where a vast majority of Americans are on this issue."

Still, some prominent Republicans, like Arizona Senator John McCain and South Carolina Lindsey Graham, are demanding answers from Haspel and they say she needs to denounce the techniques she oversaw during the Bush-Cheney administration.

"I don't think it's a debate. I think there's no debate. The law prohibits waterboarding and all interrogation techniques like that. Clear and unequivocal prohibition and I would hope that the CIA nominee agrees with me and if she doesn't it'd be tough for her," said Graham.

Those criticisms don’t work on Cheney who is steadfast in her support for her father’s administration.

"We won't sacrifice one American life if the alternative is you waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. So, I think, look, it's an issue as we go forward there are a whole bunch of really crucial national security issues we need to be focused on."