Cheney: Obama has made America less safe

CNN’s John King interviewed former Vice President Richard Cheney yesterday:

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KING: I’d like to just simply ask you, yes or no, by taking those steps, do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?

CHENEY: I do. I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11. I think that’s a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles.

President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.

KING: That’s a pretty serious thing to say about the president of the United States…


KING: … and commander in chief of the military. So I want to give you a chance, because many people will say, Vice President Cheney just said Barack Obama, President Obama is making us less safe, more at risk, which you just said. I want to give you a chance — and take as much time as you want — to prove it. Because you put that list up there, and I know you say there have been three cases, I believe, of waterboarding in the past, and you say that specific things have been prevented. I know some of this is classified intelligence, but now that you’re out of government, to the degree that you can, tell the American people, because of those tactics, because of those, yes, sometimes extreme tactics, we stopped this.

CHENEY: Well, I would say that the key to what we did was to collect intelligence against the enemy. That’s what the terrorist surveillance program was all about, that’s what the enhanced interrogation program was all about.

KING: But another 9/11, because of a tactic like waterboarding or a black site, can you say with certainty you stopped another attempt to do something on that level?

CHENEY: John, I’ve seen a report that was written based upon the intelligence that we collected then that itemizes the specific attacks that were stopped by virtue of what we learned through those programs. It’s still classified. I can’t give you the details of it without violating classification, but I can say there were a great many of them. The one that has been public was the potential attack coming out of Heathrow, when they were going to have several American planes with terrorists on board, with liquid explosives, and they were going to blow those planes up over the United States.

Now, that was intercepted and stopped, partly because of those programs that we put in place.

Now, I think part of the difficulty here as I look at what the Obama administration is doing, we made a decision after 9/11 that I think was crucial. We said this is a war. It’s not a law enforcement problem. Up until 9/11, it was treated as a law enforcement problem. You go find the bad guy, put him on trial, put him in jail. The FBI would go to Oklahoma City and find the identification tag off the truck and go find the guy that rented the truck and put him in jail.

Once you go into a wartime situation and it’s a strategic threat, then you use all of your assets to go after the enemy. You go after the state sponsors of terror, places where they’ve got sanctuary. You use your intelligence resources, your military resources, your financial resources, everything you can in order to shut down that terrorist threat against you.

When you go back to the law enforcement mode, which I sense is what they’re doing, closing Guantanamo and so forth, that they are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that’s required, and that concept of military threat that is essential if you’re going to successfully defend the nation against further attacks.

There was a time, you might vaguely recall, when the Bush administration was blamed for “not connecting the dots.”

If we get hit again, we will remember all President Obama did to stop collecting the dots.

Congresswoman Jane Harman believes in Jack Bauer’s ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario

Among those the Washington Post outed as briefed in 2002 on the use of waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques was Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA). She was reportedly the only one uncomfortable so she wrote a letter to herself and publicly released it a couple years later (others asked if they were being tough enough). Squeamish or not about how America treats detainees, Congressman Harman apparently thinks some indefinite detentions and interrogations of foreigners are necessary:

(March 12, 2009) Washington, D.C. — Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Terrorism Risk Assessment, together with co-authors Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces; Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade; and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, today introduced legislation conditioning US military aid to Pakistan on access to A.Q. Khan by US officials and assurances that he is being monitored.

Harman issued the following statement:

One of the most important challenges confronting the intelligence community is learning the nature of and damage done by the worldwide network in nuclear centrifuge technology, bomb components and training run for almost two decades by A. Q. Khan – the revered “father” of his country’s nuclear program. Considered a pariah abroad but a hero at home, that task got a lot tougher when Pakistan’s High Court ordered Khan released from house arrest last month.

At the recent Wehrkunde Security Conference in Munich, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi astonished delegates, telling us that his government had not decided whether to challenge the court decision but that Pakistan would continue to monitor Khan.

For those who stay awake at night worrying about Iran’s increasing mastery of centrifuge technology and the ability of terror groups to access nuclear components, Pakistan’s action is distressing.

When Khan “confessed” in 2004 to his illegal nuclear dealings, he was promptly placed under “house arrest” and pardoned by then President Pervez Musharraf. The U.S. government was denied access to him, and was never able to question him about what he did and what else he knew.

Today, we introduce bi-partisan legislation to condition future military aid to Pakistan on two things: that the Pakistani Government make A.Q. Khan available for questioning and that it monitor Khan’s activities. [emphasis added mine]

This much we do know. As a university student in Europe in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Khan earned degrees in metallurgical engineering from institutions in Holland and Belgium. In 1972, he began working for the Dutch partner of a uranium enrichment consortium and almost immediately raised eyebrows for repeated visits to a facility he was not cleared to see and for inquiries made about technical data unrelated to his own assignments.

Dutch intelligence quietly began to monitor him. In 1974, following India’s first nuclear test, Khan offered his expertise to Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Later that year, Khan’s company assigned him to work on Dutch translations of advanced, German-designed centrifuges — data to which he had unsupervised access for 16 days.

By 1975, the damage appears to have been done. Pakistan began to purchase components for its domestic uranium enrichment program from European suppliers, and Khan was transferred away from enrichment work due to concern about his activities.

In December, he abruptly returned to Pakistan with blueprints for centrifuges and other components and detailed lists of suppliers.

Convicted in absentia by the Dutch government for nuclear espionage, beginning in the mid-1980s, Khan is widely believed to have provided nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea, Libya and possibly Syria and Iraq. His network involved front companies and operatives in Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and Turkey. Though much of the network was taken down following his confession, there is no conclusive evidence that it was destroyed.

Khan is again a loose nuke scientist with proven ability to sell the worst weapons to the worst people. Hopefully, appropriate Pakistani officials worry as we do that their civilians could become nuclear targets — as could NATO soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan or civilians in any number of Western countries.

Our bill provides a path for the Zardari government to do the right thing –- to allow the US to evaluate the full extent of A. Q. Khan’s proliferation activities in order to halt any ongoing or future harm.

It makes me wonder if Congresswoman Harman was the one who said “pour it on” back in 2002. But I digress.

There seems little chance she’ll get to question Dr. Khan:

(March 13, 2009) The United States had stopped military and economic assistance to Pakistan in 1990, following a dispute over its nuclear programme.

Diplomatic observers in Washington, however, say that it would be difficult to bring such sanctions against Pakistan at this stage when the United States wants the allied nation to increase its role in fighting terrorism.

Pakistan is already resisting Washington’s offer for greater US involvement in training the Pakistani military.

Senior US officials and lawmakers — such as Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John Kerry, who heads the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee — have described the previous sanction against Pakistan as a mistake and opposed any future sanctions.

US officials say that the previous sanction, known as the Presslar [sic] Amendment, reduced their influence in Pakistan, particularly in the military, and has left bitter memories in that country.

Maybe Congress ought to leave foreign policy negotiations to the President.