Cheney: Obama's Changes to Anti-Terrorism Policy Will Raise the Risk of Attack

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that the Obama administration will "raise the risk" of a terrorist attack by overhauling his predecessor's approach to the War on Terror. 

Cheney sharply criticized Obama's decisions to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, limit the methods CIA officers use to interrogate terror suspects and suspend military tribunals for alleged terrorists, saying those decisions taken together will make Americans less safe. 

And he warned that the administration was transitioning to a pre-9/11 mindset that views terrorism as a "law enforcement problem" and not a military threat. 

"When you go back to the law enforcement mode, which I sense is what they're doing ... they are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that's required, and that concept of military threat that is essential if you're going to successfully defend the nation against further attacks," Cheney said on CNN's "State of the Union." 

He said the Bush administration's tough anti-terrorism policies were "absolutely essential" to the military's ability to gather the intelligence that helped foil "all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11." 

Cheney added: "President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack."

Obama has suspended military trials for suspected terrorists and announced he will close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as overseas sites where the CIA has held some detainees. The president also ordered CIA interrogators to abide by the U.S. Army Field Manual's regulations for treatment of detainees and denounced waterboarding, part of the Bush program of enhanced interrogation, as torture

Asked if he thought Obama has made Americans less safe with those actions, Cheney replied, "I do."

Some Democratic lawmakers and other administration critics have denounced those and other Bush programs, such as warrantless surveillance, as counterproductive and illegal. In defending these policies established by President George W. Bush following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Cheney said he had seen a report itemizing specific attacks that had been stopped because of the intelligence gathered through those programs. 

"It's still classified. I can't give you the details of it without violating classification, but I can say there were a great many of them," he said. 

Cheney said the March 2003 invasion of Iraq has led to democratic elections and a constitution as well as the defeat of al-Qaida in Iraq and Iran's efforts to influence events in Iraq. 

"We have succeeded in creating in the heart of the Middle East a democratically governed Iraq, and that is a big deal, and it is, in fact, what we set out to do," he said. 

Asked if he was declaring "mission accomplished" -- those words graced a banner aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln that heralded Bush's overly optimistic declaration on May 1, 2003, that major combat operations had ended in Iraq -- Cheney replied: "I wouldn't use that, just because it triggers reactions that we don't need." 

He added: "But I would ask people -- and the press, too -- to take an honest look at the circumstances in Iraq today and how far we've come." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.