National Press Club

Cheney Wants CIA Interrogation Memos Declassified

June 1, 2009 | By Don Larrabee

Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Photo/Image: Gregory Tinius/Tinius-Arts Photography

Refusal to declassify CIA memos about its interrogation practices involving detainee is "foolish ... deeply unfair and sets a dangerous precedent," former Vice President Dick Cheney said at an NPC luncheon Monday.
He said President Obama "has the authority to declassify anything he wants to. I hope he will. It needs to be out there (and) would serve a public purpose and enlighten the debate."

As he has several times in the past, Cheney attended and spoke at a luncheon to honor the recipients of the Gerald R. Ford annual prizes for distinguished reporting on national defense and the White House. Cheney was Ford's chief of staff. Kenneth Walsh of U.S. News received the prize for his White House coverage, and James Kitfield of the National Journal for defense reporting,

During questioning, Cheney said while there was no evidence that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., "I still think there was a strong case for war. The president made the right call. ... Any administration that doesn't deal with the (terroism) threat, I don't think is doing its job."

Asked about the New York Times publishing a "highly-classified" report on the terrorist surveillance program, despite pleas from the White House, he said the newspaper's action "damaged our security ... made our job tougher."

Asked about closing the Guantanamo Bay terrorist facility, Chaney said Obama "made a terrible mistake" promising to close it in a year and added: "It's going to be very difficult to close Guantanamo."

As to why the Bush administration had not captured Osama bin Laden, he said it would love to have done so and then added: "I don't think he has the capacity to do as much harm as he did once."

On other topics, Cheney said:

-- He is worried about the precedent being in the General Motors bankruptcy and government ownership.

-- "I don't think I would have nominated (Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court). I'd like to see more conservatives on the Court ... nothing personal."

-- States ought to have the final say on legalizing the marriages of gay couples. Chaney reminded everyone that one of his daughters is gay and that "people ought to be able to enter into any kind of arrangement, (but) that it ought to be left up to the states."

-- He is busy on a memoir "to set the record straight" on the Bush-Cheney years.