In an interview conducted Sunday in Iraq with Vice President Dick Cheney, and shown on Monday’s Nightline, Terry Moran decided “to put this personally” and condescendingly proposed to Cheney that the VP’s refusal to refute prisoner-abuse allegations and “surveilling Americans” by the Bush administration, leaves Moran ashamed of a country he would not want to “pass on” to his daughters. Moran asked: “I'd like to put this personally, if I can. You're a grandfather. I'm a father. When we look at those girls and we think that the country we're about to pass to them is a country where the Vice President can't say whether or not we have secret prisons around the world, whether water-boarding and mock executions is consistent with our values, and a country where the government is surveilling Americans without the warrant of a court -- is that the country we want to pass on to them?" Moran followed up by declaring that thanks to administration policies, “it's not the America we grew up in" and he countered Cheney’s defense of tough anti-terror policies: "Even if it's changing who we are?"
Moran’s contention, that Cheney and Bush are changing America for the worse, came during a series of questions about prisoner treatment which Moran fired at Cheney as the two sat outside on stools at a military base in Iraq. Moran demanded: "Should American interrogators be staging mock executions, water-boarding prisoners?” Cheney answered: "I'm not getting into specifics. You're getting into questions about sources and methods and I don't talk about that, Terry." In mock indignation, Moran retorted, before Cheney cut him off: "As Vice President of the United States you can't tell the American people whether or not-" Moran also pursued questions about whether “the United States maintain secret prisons around the world?" And: “Does the International Red Cross have access to everyone in U.S. custody, as we are obliged?" (Transcript follows.)
ABC’s World News Tonight on Sunday and Monday, as well as Good Morning America in between, ran excerpts from Moran’s session with Cheney, but not until Monday’s Nightline did viewers see the legacy for our daughters/granddaughters formulation.
In the EST and CST, Monday Night Football delayed Nightline by 85 minutes, to almost exactly 1am EST/12am CST. ABC devoted the entire Nightline to Moran’s sit-down with Cheney.
A transcript of the Nightline segment, focused on prisoner treatment, which I cobbled together by correcting against the video the closed-captioning and interview highlights posted on ABCNews.com:
Terry Moran: “The President has said we do not torture. And Senator McCain proposed a measure in part to vindicate those values that would ban the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of any person in U.S. custody anywhere in the world. Why did you fight so hard against that?”
Vice President Dick Cheney: “Well, we ultimately reached a compromise between the President and Senator McCain, and, it was arrived at just last week. The position I took was one that was the position the administration had taken when we signaled to the Congress that we were prepared to veto a bill that went farther we thought it should in terms of trying to restrict the prerogatives of the President-”
Moran: “How so when it comes to the cruel and inhumane, what's the President's prerogative in the cruel treatment of prisoners?”
Cheney: “There’s a definition that’s based on prior Supreme Court decisions and prior arguments, and it has to do with the 4th, 13th, and the three specific amendments of the Constitution. The rule is whether or not it shocks the conscience. If it’s something that shocks the conscience the court has decreed that crosses the line. You can get into a debate about what shocks the conscience and what is cruel and inhuman. To some extent, I suppose, that's in the eye of the beholder. But I believe, and we think it's important to remember that we are in a war against a group of individuals, terrorist organization, that did in fact slaughter three thousand innocent Americans on 9/11. That it's important for us to be able to have effective interrogation of these people when we capture them.”
Moran: “Should American interrogators be staging mock executions, water-boarding prisoners?
Cheney: “I’m not getting into specifics. You’re getting into questions about sources and methods and I don’t talk about that, Terry.”
Moran: “As Vice President of the United States you can’t tell the American people whether or not-”
Cheney: “I don’t talk about, I can say that in fact we are consistent with the commitments of the United States, that we don’t engage in torture, and we don’t.”
Moran: “Are you troubled at all that more than one hundred people in U.S. custody have died, 26 of them now being investigated as criminal homicides, people beaten to death, suffocated to death, died of hypothermia in U.S. custody?”
Cheney: “I won’t accept your numbers, Terry, but I guess one of things I'm concerned about is that as we get farther and farther away from 9/11, and there have been no attacks against the United States, there seems to be less and less concern about doing what's necessary in order to defend the country. I think, for example, the Patriot Act this week. The Patriot Act’s a vital piece of legislation. It was, in fact, passed in the aftermath of 9/11. It extended to our ability to operate with respect to the counter-terrorist effort. We need to maintain the capability of this government to be able to defend the nation. And that means we have to take extraordinary measures. But we do do it in a manner that's consistent with the Constitution and consistent with our statutes. And when we needed statutory authority, as we did for the Patriot Act, we went and got it. Now Congress, the Democrats are trying to filibuster.”
Moran: “Does the United States maintain secret prisons around the world?”
Cheney: “I'm not going to talk about intelligence matters.”
Moran: “Secret prisons?”
Cheney: “I'm not going to talk about intelligence matters.”
Moran: “Does the International Red Cross have access to everyone in U.S. custody, as we are obliged?”
Cheney: “Terry, with all due respect, I won't discuss intelligence matters. I shouldn't.”
Moran: “I'd like to put this personally, if I can. You're a grandfather. I'm a father. When we look at those girls and we think that the country we’re about to pass to them is a country where the Vice President can't say whether or not we have secret prisons around the world, whether water-boarding and mock executions is consistent with our values, and a country where the government is surveilling Americans without the warrant of a court -- is that the country we want to pass on to them?”
Cheney: “I want to pass on to them a country that is free, that is not plagued by terrorist attacks, doesn't see a repeat of the terrible events of 9/11 when we lost three thousand of our people that morning to a handful of terrorists who had no justification at all for what they do. I can guarantee you that we do do as a government, as an administration, is to support and uphold the Constitution of United States, that we do, in fact, take extraordinary steps to make certain we maintain our constitutional obligations and responsibilities, which includes both defending the country as well as defending individual liberties and protecting the rights of all Americans.”
Moran: “But it’s not the America we grew up in.”
Cheney: “Well, somehow, we go through these cycles. After 9/11, we are berated for allegedly not connecting the dots. 'You guys weren't tough enough, you weren’t aggressive enough, you didn't follow up on all the leads.’ And, now, you know, it's been four years, gee, maybe it was a one event. Maybe they got their, just hit us accidentally, maybe there's nothing for us to be concerned about. I know that's not true, and I want my kids to grow up in a strong, free, independent America where they are safe from the kinds of outrages that have been perpetrated not only in New York and Washington, but in Madrid, Casablanca, and Istanbul and Bali and Jakarta, all over the globe. We're up against a very tough adversary, and under those circumstances, we need to do everything we can to protect the American people. And that’s got to be of prime concern for us. It is.”
Moran: “Even if it’s changing who we are?”
Cheney: “It’s not changing who we are...”