CIA Inspector: Cheney Never Pressured Me

Former Vice President Dick Cheney never attempted to influence or intimidate the CIA's inspectors in order to get the findings he wanted on the CIA's review of enhanced interrogation techniques, the agency's inspector general has told FOX News.

In a rare response for a request to comment, CIA IG John Helgerson confirmed Tuesday that he met personally with Cheney during the course of the investigation, and despite allegations on Web blogs, the former vice president made no effort to influence his work.

"The VP (whom I had long known reasonably well, as, in a non-IG capacity, I used to brief the House Intelligence Committee on a weekly basis when he was an active Member) received me graciously and asked a number of good and appropriate questions. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, he did not attempt in any way whatsoever to intimidate me or influence what we were finding, concluding and recommending," Helgerson wrote in an e-mail to FOX News. 

"Only infrequently do IG reports take on such significance that they need to be briefed to the VP, and when this is the case, normally White House or NSC Counsel, or the VP's own staff, receive the material first and then inform the VP as they see fit," he wrote.

Helgerson said that at the time the review had been completed, he and others in the spy agency briefed a number of key parties about the program and the IG's findings. They included members of the White House, the National Security Council, Congress and the Department of Justice.

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He said he briefed the vice president because he thought it was "important that he know what was up for a number of reasons, including the elementary bureaucratic fact, for us in the Executive Branch, that the VP should know the same things senior Members in Congress were being told about a program that was as sensitive as this one." 

Asked if his work as IG was obstructed, Helgerson wrote: "No, I did not feel that there was any obstruction put up by the Agency. Not surprisingly, those directly involved in the events we were looking at were apprehensive throughout, and there were those who limited their cooperation to answering direct questions. Most individuals engaged constructively with our team."

Helgerson wrote that some members "at the heart of the program" in fact expressed relief that a rigorous review was happening. Based on the IG report, some CIA employees were anxious about the program, which was unprecedented, and they wanted to be sure whatever they did was properly vetted -- reducing the risk to them.

Helgerson said he received "a great many expressions of support for the Office of Inspector General and its work" and that CIA employees for the most part understood the role of the IG and the need for complete access. 

"In a few cases I turned to the Office of General Counsel and asked them to explain to a given employee or component what their legal obligations were, and this quickly brought cooperation. Despite all this, there was enough disorganization in the program, including confused record-keeping in the early months, that the Agency sometimes had considerable difficulty responding in a timely way to our needs for information. Overall, I would say that I received as full cooperation as any IG can reasonably expect, given the complex nature of the matters being reviewed," he wrote.

Helgerson is one of the few people to have reviewed the 92 videotapes, documenting some of the enhanced interrogation techniques. The tapes were destroyed and have been the subject of an investigation by John Durham, a career prosecutor, who is now tapped to lead the Justice Department's preliminary review into CIA employees who may have broken the law during the course of interrogations.

Asked whether the paper record summarizing the substance of the videotapes presents a complete record of events, Helgerson wrote that he is "not personally expert on the fine points of this one. But it is safe to say, I know, that a great deal was learned from the written record and a great deal was learned from the tapes. ... As you read in the declassified report, the tapes were not all complete, and the written record naturally varied in thoroughness depending on a number of human factors. IGs work from all sources of information--in this case, we were fortunate to have the combination of the tapes, written record, and interviews."

A U.S. intelligence official told FOX News that the agency is reviewing the former vice president's request for the release of documents, and another one not released earlier this week. It's being reviewed, but the official said it is similar in content to what is already released and is not a smoking gun.