Panetta told The New Yorker for an article in its June 22 issue that Cheney "smells some blood in the water" on the issue of national security.
Cheney has said in several interviews that he thinks Obama is making the U.S. less safe. He has been critical of Obama for ordering the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, halting enhanced interrogations of suspected terrorists and reversing other Bush administration initiatives he says helped to prevent attacks on the U.S.
Last month, the former vice president offered a withering critique of Obama's policies and a defense of the Bush administration on the same day that Obama made a major speech about national security.
Panetta said of Cheney's remarks: "It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."
Asked if he agreed with Panetta, Vice President Joe Biden told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he wouldn't question the motive behind Cheney's criticism.
"I think Dick Cheney's judgment about how to secure America is faulty," Biden said. "I think our judgment is correct."