Every so often Dick Cheney pops up out of semi-retirement to do a Fox News Sunday bit with Chris Wallace, and say what you will about the 72-year-old former Vice-President, but he always gives good TV.
With so much in the news about political surveillance that began under the George W. Bush administration after the events of 9/11, it's natural to hear from officials with that presidency who can talk about some of the spying going on that the passage of the Patriot Act allowed the commander in chief to do. That's why former CIA head General Michael Hayden has been omnipresent of late. Former President Bush himself has (admirably ) refrained from talking about Obama, but many think (especially in the first term) Vice President Cheney was one of the Machiavellian masters controlling how we carried out the war on terror.
On Fox, Cheney was asked about several subjects, beginning with Edward Snowden's revelations in The Guardian and the Washington Post.
Cheney says he disagrees with Rand Paul and others who claim that the NSA is "having to vacuum up information on every law-abiding American in the country" in order to search for information on possible terrorist attacks.
Cheney: Acording to the Supreme Court, those are business records of the telephone company. You don't go into that box of numbers, if you will, to look for connections unless you break up some place a suspicious number. You capture Khalid Sheik Mohamed in Karachi, or bin Laden in Abbottabad and Pakistan. You look at their cell phones, you look at their rolodex in effect and see what numbers had connections back into the United States. And by preserving that database you are able to come back, check and see if they have been talking to somebody inside.
Now, as everybody has been associated with the program said if we had this before 9/11, when there were two terrorists in San Diego, two hijackers able to use that program, that capability against the target we might have been able to prevent 9/11. So, we're not — the allegation is out there that somehow we've got all this personal information on Aunt Fanny or Chris Wallace or whoever it might be and reported through it. Not true, that's not the way it works. It's been explained by Mike Hayden who was involved in setting it up. By Keith Alexander who is a superb guy, both of them are now running the program that we have collected a lot of numbers, but they are business records and the phone companies, they have been determined by the Supreme Court not to be private individual records, the way they are oftentimes described by critics.
The former VP is relatively content with not letting Americans know more about how they're being surveilled, saying that if they don't trust their representative in Congress they can vote them out - though of course that rarely happens, with most incumbents in the House at least usually being re-elected, often without serious competition.
And what if they don't always tell the truth? The Center for Public integrity came out in early 2008 and reported that the Bush Administration made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Top intelligence officials said on Saturday that information taken from two data-collection programs run by the National Security Agency thwarted potential terrorist plots in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries — and that gathered data is destroyed every five years. They also said that less than 300 phone numbers were checked against the database of millions of U.S. phone records gathered daily by the NSA in one of the programs.
Cheney said he understood why Obama administration officials were publishing that sensitive information, but said it hurts the U.S. by providing information to our enemies.
Regarding President Obama's speech last month that the war on terrorism was winding down, Cheney said Obama had little credibility on that issue, or, come to think of it, many other issues these days.
"In terms of credibility, I don't think he has credibility. I think one of the biggest problems we have is, we have got an important point where the president of the United States ought to be able to stand up and say, this is a righteous program, it is a good program, it is saving American lives, and I support it. And the problem is the guy has failed to be forthright and honest and credible on things like Benghazi and the IRS. So he's got no credibility."
On Susan Rice being named as the new National Security Adviser, Cheney was dismissive, saying she too lacks credibility in the aftermath of the Benghazi story. "I just question whether or not somebody whose judgment was so flawed that they took what was apparently very bad information and peddled it as aggressively as she did," he said.