Cheney ‘Fesses Up that Rapport, Not Torture, Got Intelligence

Greg Sargent catches Cheney parsing carefully about whether the two CIA documents he’s trying to get released will prove that torture works.

The key moment came when his interviewer said: “You want some documents declassified having to do with waterboarding.” Cheney replied:

“Yes, but the way I would describe them is they have to do with the detainee program, the interrogation program. It’s not just waterboarding. It’s the interrogation program that we used for high-value detainees. There were two reports done that summarize what we learned from that program, and I think they provide a balanced view.”

Greg speculates:

My bet is Cheney is planning to cite the valuable intel in the docs and say that the program — of which torture was only a part — was responsible for producing it. He’ll fudge the question of whether the torture itself was actually responsible for generating that information. Cheney is as experienced as any Washington hand at using precise language to obfsucate, and this is the game plan. You heard it here first.

Greg’s right–Cheney’s making a key retreat off his claims. That’s because we know the CIA got a ton of intelligence from some of the detainees, particularly KSM. But I’ve shown repeatedly, with my half-completed review of the KSM intelligence used in the 9/11 Report, that the bulk of this information came long after KSM was waterboarded in March 2003. The first big chunks of intelligence came from him in July 2003, and there were big chunks in the months that followed. This is important because the CIA started using rapport as well as abuse. Though we don’t know when they did so, it is likely that much of the intelligence they got from KSM came at least partly because of this rapport based interrogation. 

So I’m not surprised that the program–including rapport–got intelligence. I’m just curious why Cheney is backtracking on his big claims now.

21 replies
  1. kgb999 says:

    Why are we Obsessing on Cheney while McCrystal – who ordered and implemented the most brutal torture employed in Iraq – takes over military command?

    Looking backwards is pointless if we don’t use what we see to effect the decisions we make going forward.

  2. BayStateLibrul says:

    //I’m just curious why Cheney is backtracking on his big claims now.//

    His placebo is wearing off.

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    I’m just curious why Cheney is backtracking on his big claims now.

    I think he was about to be proven wrong by his own documents. So he backed off to a position the documents would support. I’m betting neither document says anything like “He told us this when we gave him a cup of coffee and a letter from his wife” or “He told us this after the Dr revived him from the 28th waterboarding”.

    Boxturtle (Is Holder channeling Gonzo? I’m sure I’ve seen this DOJ before)

  4. sojourner says:

    There is also a report on RawStory that Cheney has now stated that there was never any link between Iraq and 9/11. He apparently said it in an interview on Faux with Greta whatzername.

    “On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9-11, there was never any evidence to prove that,” he told the Fox host. “There was “some reporting early on … but that was never borne out… [President] George [Bush] … did say and did testify that there was an ongoing relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq, but no proof that Iraq was involved in 9-11.”

    I read elsewhere yesterday (and I wish I could remember where) that he commented about the three people who were waterboarded, and how well done it was.

    Cheney is doing one of several things (or a combination of them):
    1) He is scared to death of being shown to be a liar.
    2) He is willing now to take the heat and protect Dubya from further investigation.
    3) His doctors have changed is medications and he has developed diarrhea of the mouth.
    4) He is trying to create an illusion of being forthright and candid now to forestall any further investigation.
    5) He is just scared of being held accountable.

    Take your pick!

    • freepatriot says:

      I choose option 6, all of the above

      I don’t think there is any mutual exclusion in there

      dick is filling his diapers at an alarming rate

      I think Alcoholics Autonomous calls something like this “A Moment Of Clarity”

      accountability an cowardice don’t mix

  5. Styve says:

    Don’t you think Cheney is backpedaling because Levin outright called him a liar, specifically about the contents of the two unclassified CIA docs?

  6. Muzzy says:

    I think the ball to keep an eye on is torture-derived false confessions presented as legitimate to sell the Iraq invasion.

    The point made at face value in the OP above makes clear sense. But I wonder if one possible Cheney coup behind the torture/rapport inclusiveness in his latest statement would be to begin to blur the distinction between false Iraq/al Qaeda intel derived from torture versus intel derived from legitimate FBI/CIA interrogation techniques. Using torture is one thing. Using false confessions from torture to dupe Congress into voting for the AUMF is another.

    It would be far better for Dick if he could claim a belief on his part that false Iraq/al Qaeda intel was gained and presented in good faith using the most reliable proven methods available.

    Alternatively, if confessions derived from torture are inadmissible as evidence in a court of law, how is Dick going to convince us that it is admissible in making a case for WAR.


  7. Styve says:

    Good point, Muzzy!

    How much of Cheney’s strategery smells like Rove? I really think if both were apprehended, the GOP disruption machine might grind to a halt.

  8. 1boringoldman says:

    Great job emptywheel and Greg Sargent. How about turning your attention to this Cheney-ism from yesterday:

    But Hussein was “somebody who provided sanctuary and safe harbor and resources to terrorists… [It] is, without question, a fact.”

    Cheney restated his claim that “there was a relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq that stretched back 10 years. It’s not something I made up. … We know for a fact that Saddam Hussein was a sponsor – a state sponsor – of terror. It’s not my judgment. That was the judgment of our [intelligence community] and State Department.” Cheney identified former CIA Director George Tenet as the “prime source of information” on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Tenet “testified, if you go back and check the record, in the fall of [2002] before the Senate Intelligence Committee – in open session – that there was a relationship,” Cheney said…

    I can’t pinpoint what he’s referring to. I find this, but nothing from an “open session.” Is this reference to the old “curveball” stuff?

  9. freepatriot says:


    Sargent missed the real story here

    I ain’t got a link yet, but here’s the headline:

    2018 Winter Olympics awarded to Hell

    Recent snowfall ensures plenty of snowballs

    sargent missed the story about the flying pigs too

    fookin journalists


  10. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    I’m just curious why Cheney is backtracking on his big claims now.

    Yeah, that was my first reaction as well.
    What’s up?
    Why now?

    Something seems weird.

  11. subliminalkid says:

    I don’t think he is backtracking. He is used to not having his bluff called, and yes he is master at parsing words and subtly creating non-existent links. At this moment he has to fight back as hard as possible and the first thing to do is attack the message and the messenger. First it was “We don’t torture” – now it’s “We only torture under certain circumstances, but we get results.” When and if the smoking gun comes out he then counter it with the 9-11 mind-state made us want to do everything to protect. “We tortured, we thought it was legal, and it HELPED to get results.” He was also parsing his words the other day on the Iraq invasions. He kept stating that
    “I believe” – which one could translate as “I know it is not true, but you can’t really call me a liar.” Thats all he ever does, because just about everything they did was subterfuge by stealth action.

  12. AlchemyToday says:

    What are the odds that the document(s) Cheney wants declassified are just official restatements of the story that Cheney, Hayden, et al are relying on to justify torture: Zubaydah’s torture got us KSM which … stopped the LA attacks?

    Occam’s razor says that if there were anything else there, it would’ve been leaked by now. It seems clear that this is the only “success” story that Cheney has to hang his hat on. And while he never directly linked Saddam to 9/11, he certainly has said that there were multiple attacks thwarted that we never found out about because they were classified… I seriously doubt that.

  13. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Of interest to many here: one of Tweety (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews) finest hours today, interviewing McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel in a Big Picture overview contrasting what Cheney is saying now — as if he’s the CIA’s biggest supporter and best friend — with his statements in 2002, 2003, as well as facts provided in reports from Congress and the Defense Dept.

    The McClatchy reporters focus completely on facts, *and* Tweety does not interrupt them (until the last seconds of the 9:20 interview). He lets them speak, and wow do these men present fact, after fact, after fact.

    There are obviously some who won’t want to hear what they say, but this is what media should be — fact, after fact, after fact (citing source, after source, after source).

    The power of level-headed people presenting fact, after fact, after fact is something we’ve seen too little of for a very long time.

    Tweety finally hits one out of the ball park — these McClatchy reporters have a ton of facts at the tip of their tongues.

    Very heartening interview.

  14. RIRedinPA says:

    The delicious irony here is that Cheney seems to be falling victim to what the professional interrogators have been doing in intelligence and police organizations for years. Let the bad guys talk. And talk. And talk. While you keep track of their statements and the known facts. They’ll start off lying but eventually their stories become too convoluted and they make mistakes or change statements or dates or something and it all begins to unravel. No torture needed, Cheney will talk himself into a prison cell.

    Of course for this to work it takes a tough interrogator/investigator, someone not intimidated by the bad guy, someone willing to call them when they twist and turn their stories. We’ve lacked that for the past eight years and it is only now, once the bad guy is no longer powerful, are people like Matthews and others in the MSM willing to question him. The damage has already been done though.

    But at least the spotlight has been turned on him. So let him keep talking. Eventually, like some petty criminal in a Bogart film, in a dank interrogation room filled with cigarette smoke, under the swinging overhead light he’ll break. I don’t think it’ll be some tearful mea culpa but more like Nixon’s outburst of anger at David Frost, with a famous ‘if the President does it, it isn’t illegal’ type line. And the whole charade will come tumbling down. Little benefit to the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, the thousands of dead military members and their families, the trampled Constitution and America’s reputation but it’ll be something.

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