Former Vice President Dick Cheney says politics are driving the Justice Department's decision to investigate whether CIA interrogators abused terror suspects detained after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"It's clearly a political move," Cheney said in an interview aired Sunday. "I mean, there's no other rationale for why they're doing this."
He added: "I just think it's an outrageous political act that will do great damage, long term, to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say."
At issue is Attorney General Eric Holder's decision last week to look into abuse allegations after the release of an internal CIA inspector general's report. President Barack Obama has said interrogators would not face charges if they followed legal guidelines.
However, the report concluded that some CIA interrogators went beyond Bush administration guidelines that gave them wide latitude to use severe tactics against detainees such as waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique that critics call torture. Three high-level suspects underwent waterboarding scores of times.
The former vice president was interviewed this week at his Wyoming home by Chris Wallace and broadcast this morning on "Fox News Sunday."
Cheney called the techniques "good policy," saying he was comfortable in cases where interrogators went beyond what they were specifically authorized to do. The CIA report found they included cases of interrogators threatening a detainee with a handgun and an electric drill.
He noted that the Justice Department, during the Bush administration, approved the harsh tactics in legal memos to the White House, and said those techniques were "directly responsible" for the fact that there were no further mass casualty attacks against the United States.
"I guess the other thing that offends the hell out of me, frankly, Chris, is we had a track record now of eight years of defending the nation against any further mass casualty attacks from al Qaeda," Cheney said. "The approach of the Obama administration should be to come to those people who were involved in that policy and say, 'how did you do it? What were the keys to keeping this country safe over that period of time?' Instead, they're out there now threatening to disbar the lawyers who gave us the legal opinions, threatening contrary to what the president originally said.
"I just think it's an outrageous precedent to set, to have this kind of, I think, intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration."
Cheney was striking out at a Justice Department that has reeled from accusations of bending to White House politics for years, most recently under the Bush administration.
He said he has serious doubts about President Obama's policies - especially whether the new Democratic administration understands the threat to Americans.
"I was not a fan of his when he got elected, and my views have not changed any," Cheney said of President Obama.