Originally published at Digital Journal
Former US Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledged for the first time on Sunday that some of the men and boys detained as terrorism suspects after 9/11 were in fact innocent.
“I’m more concerned with the bad guys that were released than the few that were, in fact, innocent,” said Cheney, noting that the man who would become the leader of the Islamic State militant group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been a US prisoner in Iraq before being released in 2004.
According to the recently-released summary of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, at least 26 of the 119 detainees covered in the report were wrongfully detained, even after their captors realized they were innocent.
When Todd pointed out that “25 percent of the detainees turned out to be innocent” and asked if he was “okay with that margin of error,” Cheney shot back that he has “no problem as long as we achieve our objective.”
“Our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and to avoid another attack on the United States,” said Cheney.
The theme of innocent detainees being knowingly imprisoned has been constant throughout the anti-terrorism campaign. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former top aide to Bush-era secretary of state Colin Powell, has accused Bush, Cheney and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld of keeping innocent detainees locked up in the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba for political reasons. According to Wilkerson, top Bush administration officials feared that releasing the innocent detainees would damage their war effort in Iraq and in the wider war against Islamist terrorism.
In 2011, the whistleblower website Wikileaks revealed that around 20 percent of GITMO detainees, or some 150 men and boys, were innocent but held anyway.
US military authorities in Iraq also deliberately imprisoned innocent female relatives of insurgency suspects as part of an effort to coerce the wanted men to turn themselves in.
If any of this bothered Cheney, it was not apparent during his “Meet the Press” interview, during which he said that for him, torture is what the 3,000 9/11 victims experienced.
“Torture to me… is an American citizen on his cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York,” Cheney said.
The former vice president once infamously dismissed waterboarding — a brutal interrupted drowning technique for which both Americans and enemy forces have been prosecuted during past wars — as a mere “dunk in the water,” even while admitting he would object if Iranian torturers waterboarded an American citizen.
When Todd asked during Sunday’s interview why he continues to refuse to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture when “we prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding” during World War II, Cheney denied this historical fact and accused his host of taking a “cheap shot.” But Japanese soldiers were indeed sentenced to deathfor waterboarding American prisoners of war, as torture foes like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) have repeatedly noted.
Cheney also disputed the Senate report’s assertion that torture did not work.
“It worked, it absolutely worked,” he insisted.
He also roundly rejected the report’s claim that Bush was unaware of the specific details of the torture program as a “flat-out lie.” Bush “knew what we were doing, he authorized it, he approved it,” said Cheney.