Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 17:17 UK

Cheney enters 'torture' memos row

Dick Cheney: 'It was enormously valuable' - courtesy FOX News Channel

Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney has urged the CIA to release memos which he says show harsh interrogation techniques such as water-boarding work.

His comments follow the publication of memos written by Bush administration lawyers which justified the techniques.

Mr Cheney said that the decision to publish the memos was a mistake.

And it was misleading, he said, because the documents did not include those demonstrating that harsh interrogation delivered intelligence "success".

"One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is that they put out the legal memos... but they didn't put out the memos that show the success of the effort," Mr Cheney told Fox News.

Justin Webb
The real question - of course - is whether waterboarding is justified under any circumstances

"There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity. They have not been declassified. I formally ask that they be declassified now."

The American people should have a chance to weigh the intelligence obtained alongside the legal debate, he said.

Mr Cheney made his comments as US President Barack Obama visited the CIA headquarters just outside Washington.

In a move seen as an attempt to boost morale, Mr Obama told employees that the CIA remained key to protecting the country.

Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge that potentially we've made some mistakes
Barack Obama

Staff had faced a "difficult" few days, he acknowledged, but they had his full support and were key to tackling threats from groups such as al-Qaeda.

Mr Obama said he had had no choice but to release the Bush administration's legal justification for interrogation techniques, which he considers to be torture - and has banned.

"Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge that potentially we've made some mistakes.

"That's how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that's why you should be proud to be members of the CIA," he said.

The memos, detailing the range of techniques the CIA was allowed to use during the Bush administration, were released on 16 April.

Quoting one of the memos, The New York Times said water-boarding - or mock drowning - was used on two al-Qaeda terror suspects on up to 266 occasions.

Other methods mentioned in the memos include week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity and the use of painful positions.

Mr Obama on Thursday said he would not prosecute under anti-torture laws CIA personnel who relied in good faith on Bush administration legal opinions issued after the 11 September attacks.

But he has been criticised by human rights organisations and UN officials, who say charges are necessary to prevent future abuses and to hold people accountable.


[Dick Cheney's request] strikes me as eminently reasonable. Up until now, the case against torture has been an easy one to make, since there's been nothing in the way of solid evidence (sorry, Marc Thiessen's fulminations don't count) that waterboarding, walling, etc actually worked and produced useful intelligence. It's possible that these reports Cheney mentions won't amount to solid evidence either, but, at this point, all the evidence should be on the table (with redactions where necessary, of course).

Jason Zengerle, New Republic

Unfortunately for Republicans, Cheney's primary mission - defending the Bush presidency from attacks against it - does almost nothing to further the broader goals of the GOP heading into 2010 and 2012. In fact, it is at odds with those goals.

Chris Cilizza, Washington Post

Cheney is wrong to suggest that the released documents fail to describe the reported success of the harsh treatment. The May 30, 2005 memo by Steven Bradbury includes pages of description of the benefits of harsh interrogation... Cheney present[s] a scene out of 24, the television shows. Tough guy terrorists won't talk, until they think they are drowning. Then they give up the store. The accuracy of this vision is, from what is known publicly at present, still in dispute. As Scott Shane reported Saturday in the New York Times, the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, which is deemed [a] major success in the Bradbury memo, was seen as totally unnecessary and unproductive by others in the intelligence community.

Michael Scherer, Time

Democrats are thrilled Dick Cheney hasn't found a more productive way to spend his retirement. The majority party would love nothing more than a political fight that boils down to Obama's approach vs. the Bush/Cheney/Rove approach. The former VP keeps making this easier.

Steve Benen, Washington Monthly

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