The former US vice-president Dick Cheney has called for the disclosure of CIA memos which reveal the "success" of torture techniques, including waterboarding, used on al-Qaida suspects under the Bush administration.
Cheney said that, according to secret documents he has seen, the interrogation techniques, which the Obama administration now accepts amounted to torture, delivered "good" intelligence. He hinted that it had significant consequences for US security.
was speaking out in response to the release by Barack Obama of four
Bush administration memos detailing the agency's interrogation methods
used against al-Qaida suspects.
"One of the things that I find a
little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the
legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal
Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of
the effort," Cheney said in an appearance on Fox News.
talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I
saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and
what the consequences were for the country.
"I've now formally
asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so the American
people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and
how good the intelligence was."
Obama yesterday visited CIA
headquarters to defend the publication of the internal documents. The
row gathered further momentum yesterday when it emerged that one detainee, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had been subjected to waterboarding 183 times and another, Abu Zubaydah, 83 times.
is keen to try to put the row behind him, reluctant to see prosecutions
that could be politically divisive and distract attention from his
heavy domestic and foreign agenda.
In a speech to about 1,000 staff aimed at restoring CIA
morale, Obama, who promised last week that CIA operatives would not be
prosecuted, reiterated that he would stand by them.
discouraged by what's happened in the last few weeks," Obama said.
"Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've
made some mistakes. That's how we learn."
At a private meeting
with 50 rank-and-file CIA members at their headquarters in Langley,
Virginia, before his speech, Obama heard "understandable anxiety and
concern" from agents fearful of prosecution.
The CIA's director
during the Bush administration, Michael Hayden, who criticised the
release of the memos, warned on Sunday that agents could be vulnerable
because of the memos, facing civil lawsuits or congressional inquiries.
details were blacked out in the memos seen by most of the media on
Thursday but over the weekend Marcy Wheeler, of the Emptywheel blog, found a copy in which crucial details were not masked.
copy showed that Mohammed had been subjected to waterboarding - which
simulates drowning - 183 times in March 2003. He had been arrested in
Pakistan at the start of that month. Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi captured in
Pakistan in March 2002, was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in
Mohammed had admitted to involvement in terrorist
actions before his capture but, after being interrogated, confessed to
a list of incidents and plots that included the 1993 attack on the
World Trade Centre in New York, as well as a plot to attack Heathrow,
Big Ben and Canary Wharf, the beheading of the US journalist Daniel
Pearl, and the Bali bombing.
Abu Zubaydah denied involvement with al-Qaida.
defending himself against those in the CIA who argued that he should
not have released the memos, said legally he had no grounds for
blocking a freedom of information request from the US human rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union.
acted primarily because of the exceptional circumstances that
surrounded these memos, particularly the fact that so much of the
information was public," Obama said.
Standing in front of a wall
with 89 stars, each depicting an officer killed in action, Obama
praised the CIA as the "tip of the spear" in protecting the US from its
Obama said he understood that intelligence officials
must sometimes feel that they are working with one hand tied behind
their backs. But, rebutting Hayden, he said: "What makes the United States
special and what makes you special is precisely the fact that we are
willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it's hard, not
just when it's easy, even when we are afraid and under threat, not just
when its expedient to do so.
"So yes, you've got a harder job and
so do I, and that's OK. And over the long term, that is why I believe
we will defeat our enemies, because we're on the better side of
Hayden had argued that the harsher interrogation
techniques had provided valuable information and said that the
techniques did not amount to torture.
Human rights lawyers question the credibility of the confessions because they were obtained under duress.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked yesterday why Bush
administration lawyers could not be prosecuted, said: "The president is
focusing on looking forward."