Liz Cheney Revises History Of Father's Relationship With The CIA

Liz Cheney Revises History Of Father's Relationship With The CIA

Matt Corley of ThinkProgress makes an interesting observation from Liz Cheney's appearance on yesterday's edition of This Week. Asked about whether her father, as Vice President, had "suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection," Liz Cheney did not make any outright denials, instead offering:

CHENEY: I think that it's important for us to have all the facts out. And and, the first and most important fact is that the vice president has been absolutely clear that he supported this program, this was an important program, it saved American lives. Now, the way this policy worked internally was once the policy was determined and decided, the CIA, you know, made the judgments about how each individual detainee would be treated. And the Vice President would not substitute his own judgment for the professional judgment of the CIA.


Wait. Vice President Cheney would never substitute his own judgment for the CIA's? That's news to me! And It strikes Corley odd as well, who immediately points out:

Cheney's claim that her father would never "substitute his own judgment for the professional judgment of the CIA" is striking, especially in the context of establishing a link between al Qaeda and Iraq. The truth is that when the CIA didn't give Cheney the info he wanted about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, he marginalized the agency:

In the initial stages of the war on terror, Tenet's CIA was rising to prominence as the lead agency in the Afghanistan war. But when Tenet insisted in his personal meetings with the president that there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld initiated a secret program to re-examine the evidence and marginalize the agency and Tenet. Through interviews with DoD staffers who sifted through mountains of raw intelligence, FRONTLINE details how questionable intelligence was "stovepiped" to the vice president and presented to the public.

I'd take this even further, by pointing out that Dick Cheney's longstanding antipathy with the CIA is at the heart of the Scooter Libby probe. As the Los Angeles Times reported back in 2005, Cheney and Libby had "shared doubts about the CIA," which specifically attracted the attention of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as he investigated the Valerie Plame matter:

Fitzgerald has learned about ongoing tensions between Cheney's circle and the CIA. According to a former White House official interviewed by The Times, Libby and others in the White House were incensed by Wilson's public criticism, in part because they saw it as a salvo fired by the CIA at administration officials, including Cheney, who was perhaps the most outspoken advocate of the case against Iraq.

Witnesses have told Fitzgerald about those tensions. New York Times reporter Judith Miller wrote recently that she told the grand jury that Libby had been angry with the CIA in the months after the invasion of Iraq, saying that President Bush might have made inaccurate statements about Iraqi weapons programs because the agency did not discuss its doubts.

And Cheney's antipathy for the Central Intelligence Agency goes way back:

Cheney's skepticism of the CIA dates to the late 1980s, when the agency failed to predict the Soviet Union's breakup, according to a source familiar with Cheney's thinking. When then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, and the first Bush administration began to ponder its military options, it became clear to Cheney that the intelligence community had a poor understanding of Iraq's arsenal.

Libby, who was working for Cheney, assigned an aide to conduct a secret investigation of Hussein's biological warfare capabilities and his likely reactions to a U.S. invasion.

"Libby's basic view of the world is that the CIA has blown it over and over again," said the source, who declined to be identified because he had spoken with Libby confidentially. "Libby and Cheney were [angry] that we had not been prepared for the potential in the first Gulf War."

And, that same L.A. Times article really helps to drive home Corley's point:

Leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Cheney worked with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld's then-deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, to challenge CIA findings that countered their expectations or that disagreed with information they had received through their own intelligence channels.

Cheney traveled from the White House to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., a dozen times, most often to discuss Iraq's possible links to nuclear weapons and terrorism. Agency veterans have said that Cheney's visits were more frequent than those of any other president or vice president, including the first president Bush, a former director of the agency.

When Cheney visited the CIA, Iraq was his main focus, particularly in the months before the war. Unlike Libby and others working with the vice president, Cheney was reportedly always polite. But in his quiet way, he was insistent, sometimes asking the same question again and again as if he hoped the answer would change, according to people familiar with his contacts with the CIA.

Cheney's visits perked up agency analysts who often worked anonymously, said one former official. Many reportedly enjoyed the challenge of a smart questioner and appreciated his interest. But Cheney's visits and his clinging to certain views became noticeable and drew expressions of concern, according to the former official.

Frankly, it sounds like Cheney all but insisted that the CIA substitute his own opinion over their professional judgment.

SIDE NOTE: On This Week, Liz Cheney was always constantly referring to her father as "The Vice President." It seems to me that protocol does call for a former president or vice-president to be referred to with that honorific after they leave office, but here, Cheney seems to laying it on rather thick. Maybe it's just me. At any rate, I recall that later in the roundtable, Katrina VandenHeuvel uttered a faux slip-of-the-tongue and called Cheney the President, after which she apologized saying, "I guess I always thought of him as the president." Maybe she was responding to Liz Cheney.

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