Dick Cheney: ‘He’s a Traitor’
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During the Bush administration, the first to deal with a post-9/11 world, Cheney was a driving force behind increased government surveillance as part of the war on terror. He told Chris Wallace today that Snowden has committed crimes by violating agreements given the position he had. “I think it’s one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States.”
The 29-year-old who leaked information about the government’s data mining program to two newspapers is supposedly in Hong Kong. He’s said to be giving the Chinese information about alleged U.S. cyber hacking into their computers. Wallace asked the former VP if he thinks Snowden is a spy for the Chinese or if he’s trying to buy asylum.
Cheney said he’s “deeply suspicious” of Snowden. “That’s not a place where you’d ordinarily want to go if you’re interested in freedom and liberty.”
He added that China may be willing to provide protection for Snowden in exchange for more secrets. “I am very, very worried that he still has additional information that he hasn’t released yet. […] I don’t think this is just a one-off disclosure. I think there’s a real danger here that he’ll go beyond that.”
The bigger concern, Cheney said, is whether he had help inside the NSA to obtain the information. “I have trouble believing that somebody in his position as a contract employ had access to the kind of things he’s talking about.”
Last week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) told Wallace that this program is unconstitutional. He said, “This is what we objected to and what our Founding Fathers partly fought the revolution over – is they did not want generalized warrants where you could go house to house with soldiers looking for things, or now, from computer to computer […] without specifying who you’re targeting.”
Well, Cheney said Sen. Paul is flat out wrong. The former VP even asserted that perhaps this type of program could've prevented the September 11, 2001 attacks. “Two-thirds of the Congress today, Chris, wasn’t here on 9/11 or for that period immediately after when we got into this program. And the reason we got into it was because we’d been attacked. […] Nineteen guys armed with box cutters and airline tickets. The worry is that […] sooner or later there’s going to be another attack and they’ll have deadlier weapons.”
He said, “We made the decision based on 9/11 that we no longer had a law enforcement problem – that we’re at war. And Congress, in fact, authorizes the president to use military force to deal with that crisis.”
Part of that military force includes intelligence programs, he said. When considering the possibility of someone smuggling a nuclear device onto American soil, Cheney said it then becomes important to gather intelligence on enemies and stop the attack.
Wallace raised the question that Sen. Paul and others have asked, which is why the government needs to gather massive amounts of Internet and phone records on law abiding citizens. Cheney said there’s no names associated with the phone numbers and according to the Supreme Court, that’s not private information. He explained that only if there’s a reason to suspect someone, then they’d go back and check that database.
The issue then becomes, why the program has to be kept secret if terrorists likely assume the U.S. government would try to intercept their calls and emails. Wallace asked, “Why not let the American public know the outlines, the general program, obviously not sources and methods, […] so we as Americans can debate it?”
“I have problems with respect to that concern,” Cheney responded. “[…] An intelligence program that does reveal sources and methods, which in fact is what you’re talking about, is significantly less effective because you’re not just revealing it to the American people, you’re revealing it to your targets.”
Cheney saved some of his criticism for President Obama. “I don’t think he has credibility. […] The problem is the guy has failed to be forthright, honest and credible on things like Benghazi and the IRS.”
He said the president is "dead wrong" for saying the war on terror is winding down, adding that “the threat’s bigger than ever.”
Watch part one of the Cheney interview above and part two below!