Verne Strickland Blogmaster / September 11, 2011
Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if necessary to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon, former Vice President Dick Cheney tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.
“I think they would,” Cheney said when asked about the possibility. “I think Iran represents an existential threat, and they'll do whatever they have to do to guarantee their survival and their security.”
When asked if his opinion was based on discussions with Israeli leaders, Cheney responded, “I can’t attribute it to any one particular Israeli leader. I wouldn’t want to do that.” But he said, “I’ve had a number of conversations with a lot of Israeli officials, and I think they correctly perceive Iran as a basic threat.”
The book "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir," will hit the New York Times non-fiction hardcover bestseller list next Sunday in the No. 1 position.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has accused Cheney of taking “cheap shots” by saying in his book that he learned that Powell was opposed to the war in Iraq yet “never once in any meeting did I hear him voice objection.”
In asking about that, I told him that for my book “A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush,” the White House arranged for me to interview Cabinet officers and their staffs. When I interviewed Powell and his immediate staff, “I couldn’t believe what they told me,” I said to Cheney. “It was like walking into DNC Headquarters, literally.”
Asked if he was aware of how aggressively Powell’s staff sought to undermine the Bush administration and whether he told Bush about it, Cheney said he was aware of the policy differences but needs to maintain the confidentiality of many of his discussions with Bush.
“I had good reason why I wrote what I did,” Cheney said.
Given that the press portrayed the administration’s program to intercept terrorist communications as “spying on innocent Americans,” I asked Cheney if the administration could have explained in a general way why the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program was necessary to thwart attacks by al-Qaida.
Cheney said Bush did eventually give a few speeches mentioning results from the program, but he said, “We still had the basic fundamental problems [of] running what are inherently secret or classified programs, and you don’t want to tell the enemy how it is that you are reading their mail.”
Cheney said he convened a meeting of the top nine members of Congress and asked them if the administration should continue the surveillance program. “They said absolutely, yes,” Cheney said. “They were unanimous. Nancy Pelosi was there, Jay Rockefeller was there.”
Following up with them, Cheney said he asked if the White House should ask Congress for more legislative authority to conduct the program.
“They were unanimous that we should not on the grounds that if we did that, we would reveal to our enemy what it was that we were doing and how we were doing it,” Cheney said.
On another contentious issue, as speaker of the House, Pelosi later claimed she had not been informed of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, adding that the CIA routinely lies to Congress. She then conceded she had been told about the program but claimed she was powerless to stop it.
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. subsequently launched an investigation of CIA officers who had carried out enhanced interrogation, even though career Justice Department officials had decided they had not violated any criminal laws. Holder admitted he had not read the memos of career officials explaining why they declined prosecution.
Asked about the effect on the CIA, Cheney said, “I think it was potentially devastating.”
In addition, Cheney said, the Obama administration “threatened to go after the attorneys in the Justice Department who had given us the legal opinions that we were operating under. It was a terrible thing to do.”
Two days after Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, then CIA Director Leon Panetta confirmed to NBC’s Brian Williams that the CIA obtained some of the intelligence that pinpointed bin Laden’s hiding place from enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding.
While the Obama administration has been aggressively killing terrorists with drone aircraft, it has basically shut down the program to interrogate foreign terrorist detainees. After shutting it down, “They said that they were going to set up a new one, but I haven’t seen any evidence yet that they have ever done that,” Cheney said.
Cheney said he was not aware of the fact that after his capture, Saddam Hussein admitted to FBI agent George Piro that while he was bluffing about having weapons of mass destruction, he planned to resume his WMD program in about a year, including developing a nuclear weapon. As first disclosed in my book “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack,” Piro spent 7 months debriefing Saddam. Few news outlets ran a story about Saddam’s admission.
Asked about Obama’s speech on job creation, Cheney said, “We've got a huge problem in terms of the need to get the economy back on the road to recovery. With a zero job creation from the last month, we’re in big trouble. I’m not at all certain that he has figured out what the problem is.”
As I interviewed Cheney, demonstrators outside his office carried signs calling him a war criminal and a torturer. I asked the former vice president about that and about very liberal Democrats as well as some very conservative Republicans who oppose measures like the Patriot Act that provide the FBI with tools for uncovering terrorist plots.
“I’m not surprised that there are people who disagree with what we did. That’s the nature of the business,” Cheney said. But he worries about some who say the administration overreacted to the 9/11 attack. The danger is that people become less tolerant of policies that have kept the country safe since 9/11.
“Something like the 10th anniversary is a reminder for everybody of what 9/11 cost us and how painful it was for us as a nation to go through that, but it also is a reminder that the threat is still there and that we still got people who want to do us harm.”
To ignore that and to say waging a war on terror is “kind of a nasty business” or “it’s too tough” is to risk another devastating attack, Cheney said.
“I still worry more than anything else really about the possibility of a group of terrorists acquiring really deadly capabilities,” Cheney said. “When we got hit on 9/11 there were 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters. The next time around I worry they may have a nuclear device or biological agent of some kind and would be in a position to inflict far greater damage and loss of lives than anything we experienced on 9/11. I think that’s still a very real threat.”
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Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," has just been published.