A secret recording has surfaced of Vice President Dick Cheney speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition where he held forth on various subjects — assuming that the session was closed to the public and press. Cheney appears to be intent on, again, revising history to get people to embrace a security state. You may recall how Cheney (who is often cited as a potential defendant in a torture prosecution) publicly assuring the nation that the Bush torture program produced valuable intelligence. That assertion has been previously dismissed by experts and insiders. However, as we discussed recently, the forthcoming Senate Report goes into great deal to show that not only is that assertion untrue but that the CIA actively sought to hide the fact that the torture program produced insignificant intelligence (and that detainees were tortured despite their cooperation in conventional interrogations). Cheney is now fighting to defend the massive surveillance of citizens — again dismissing even the concessions of intelligence officials about abuses and violations under the program. Cheney told a rapturous crowd that all such accounts were “hogwash.” He further pumped the crowd with support for an attack on Iran to add yet another war to our current international conflicts.
In his March 29th remarks, Cheney insisted that suggestions “That we have created in the National Security Agency this monster bureaucracy that’s reading everybody’s mail, listening to everybody’s phone calls, infringing upon our civil liberties and civil rights — hogwash.” He then adds the assertion that, if we had only embraced massive surveillance previously, “It probably would’ve allowed us to stop 9/11.”
It is a signature moment for Cheney. Once again, when confronted with the creation of a security state and mass surveillance, he plays the 9-11 card. There has never been any suggestion that the program would have prevented 9-11. More importantly, Cheney seems to be forgetting the findings of virtually every investigation of 9-11 that the CIA and FBI could have prevented the attacks with existing powers. Intelligence officials failed to share information and use existing powers to prevent the attack despite various indications that the attack was coming. Of course those findings do not play as well for expanding the powers and budgets of those very same agencies. Instead, citizens are asked to embrace torture, kill lists, and massive surveillance if they want to avoid an attack.
For many outside of this country, the very fact that Cheney has not been prosecuted for his role in the torture program is a consistent reminder of the failure of the country to fulfilled its obligations under existing treaties, as reflected by the recent U.N. report (only the latest such UN criticism). Cheney is a fascinating study of how some citizens and leaders seem to have an overwhelming inclination toward authoritarian power (not just to wield it but to be subject to it). It could not be more disconnected with the views and values of the Framers who deeply distrusted government powers and foreign entanglements. Even in the face of reports and statements from intelligence officials to the contrary, Cheney continues to deny reality in support of near absolute powers in the president. It is hard to tell if he truly believes these accounts or simply seeks to sustain a rivaling narrative. Either way, it increasingly appears so disconnected from reality as to be doublespeak, or even delusional, for Cheney.