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Cheney: Enhanced Interrogations 'Essential' in Saving American Lives

Former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the CIA's aggressive interrogation of terrorists — including techniques that may have skirted the law — by saying it kept the nation safe from "mass casualty attacks" for eight years. 

Cheney, speaking on "FOX News Sunday" in an exclusive interview, touted the effectiveness of the tactics as he blasted the Obama administration for its decision to investigate alleged prisoner abuses by the CIA.  

"The enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States, and giving us the intelligence we needed to go find Al Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed," Cheney said. . 

"Those interrogations were involved in the arrest of nearly all the Al Qaeda members that we were able to bring to justice," he added. "I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States." 

Seven months after leaving office, the former vice president spoke unapologetically about controversial techniques such as waterboarding, which approximates the sensation of drowning. 

"I knew about the waterboarding," Cheney said. "Not specifically in any one particular case, but as a general policy that we had approved." 

But the Bush administration did not approve of scaring terrorists with fake executions or power drills, two tactics that came to light in a report last week by the CIA's inspector general. Cheney nevertheless downplayed those allegations and defended those accused of using such tactics.  

"They looked at this question of whether or not somebody had an electric drill in an interrogation session — it was never used on the individual," Cheney said of the inspector general's report. "Or that they had brought in a weapon — never used on the individual." 

"So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it?" asked FOX News' Chris Wallace

"I am," Cheney replied. 

"The thing I keep coming back to time and time again, Chris, is the fact that we've gone for eight years without another attack," Cheney said. "Now, how do you explain that? The critics don't have any solution for that. They can criticize our policies, our way of doing business, but the results speak for themselves." 

He added: "It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well."
Asked if he thinks "Democrats are soft on national security," Cheney replied: "I do." 

"I've always had the view that — in recent years, anyway — that they didn't have as strong of advocates on national defense or national security as they used to have, and I worry about that," the former vice president said. "Things have gotten so partisan that the sort of the pro-defense hawkish wing of the Democratic party has faded and isn't as strong as it once was." 

For example, Cheney criticized former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, for recently meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il in order to free two American journalists who were being held captive by Pyongyang. 

"They probably are the worst proliferators of nuclear technology any place in the world today," Cheney said. "And there ought to be a price for that. 

"Instead, I think when the former president of the United States goes, meets with the leader and so forth, that we are rewarding their bad behavior," he added. "And I think it is a mistake." 

Asked if former President George W. Bush "went soft in the second term," Cheney replied: "I wouldn't say that." Still, the former vice president made clear he had been more hawkish than Bush when it came to the effort to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. 

Asked why the Bush administration did not "take out the Iranian nuclear program," Cheney explained: "It was not my decision to make." 

"I was probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my colleagues," he added. 

Cheney said he argued that diplomatic "negotiations could not possibly succeed unless the Iranians really believed we were prepared to use military force. And to date, of course, they are still proceeding with their nuclear program and the matter has not yet been resolved." 

"As I say, I was an advocate of a more robust policy than any of my colleagues, but I didn't make the decision," he added. "The president made the decision and, obviously, we pursued the diplomatic avenues."

Bill Sammon is FOX News Channel's (FNC) vice president of News and Washington managing editor.