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Torture: Dick Cheney all in on 'enhanced interrogation' (+video)

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, former Vice President Dick Cheney wouldn’t budge on the Bush administration’s program of what a Senate report says was torture of terrorist suspects. “I would do it again in a minute,” he said.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, host Chuck Todd did his best to get Dick Cheney to budge on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which most of the rest of the world calls torture.

Mr. Todd might as well have tried bamboo slivers under the former Vice President’s fingernails. Score it Cheney 1, Todd zip.

Even mention of the most cringe-worthy CIA technique revealed in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,700-page report this past week – something called “rectal hydration” and “rectal feeding” – could not make Cheney wince.

Recommended: Senate torture report: six top findings

“I believe it was done for medical reasons,” Cheney said. “That was not something that was done as part of the interrogation program. It was not torture, as it was not part of the program.”

Medical experts told the committee (and others have said publicly) that there is no legitimate reason for that technique, no justification other than to cause fear and pain.

On the most infamous technique used – the drowning procedure known as waterboarding – Todd asked Cheney how it could be legal if Japanese interrogators were prosecuted for waterboarding allied POWs during World War II. Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Sen. John McCain – imprisoned and tortured for more than five years in Vietnam – pointed out that some of those Japanese interrogators who used waterboarding were executed.

Cheney called any suggestion of moral equivalence “a cheap shot.”

Asked to define “torture,” Cheney said he and other Bush administration officials relied on assurances by the Justice Department and the White House Office of Legal Counsel that waterboarding, sleep deprivation, cramped confinement, dunking in cold water to the point of causing hypothermia, and other harsh measures were legal under US and international law.

“All of the techniques that were authorized by the president were, in effect, blessed by the Justice Department opinion that we could go forward with those without, in fact, committing torture,” he said.

Cheney also insisted that “enhanced interrogation techniques” produced actionable intelligence that saved lives, which the Senate committee strongly denies.

“It worked,” Cheney said. “It absolutely did work.”

In his highly unusual press conference last week, CIA Director John Brennan said that whether or not the use of such techniques led directly to actionable intelligence is “unknown and unknowable.”

Mr. Brennan also said that some of the techniques used to make those with suspected terrorist links talk were "abhorrent and should be repudiated by all.”

As other critics of the Senate report have insisted, Cheney said it was the product of a “partisan operation.”

Appearing on “Meet the Press” after Cheney, Sen. Ron Wyden, (D) of Oregon, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, took strong exception.

“Facts aren't partisan, Chuck,” Sen. Wyden said. “We reviewed six million pages of documents; the full report has 38,000 footnotes. And what we've thought to do was very careful. And that is to take the statements the CIA made to the American people, made to the Congress, made to the Justice Department, made to the president, and we compared it to their own internal communications in real time. There is a mountain of contradictions.”

Cheney remained unruffled and polite – friendly, even – during his “Meet the Press” appearance as Todd probed for any cracks in his position as a chief participant in developing and overseeing the Bush administration’s tough response regarding those suspected of having terrorist connections.

“I would do it again in a minute,” he said.

As she did during CIA Director Brennan’s press conference the other day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D) of California, who chairs the intelligence committee, tweeted up a storm as Cheney was having his way with Todd.

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