Wire: Colin Powell Defends Bush, Agrees With Cheney
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported on Colin Powell's Sunday appearance on the CBS News program, "Face the Nation."
Most commercial media outlets focused on the former Secretary of State's response to what Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh have said about his questionable Republican Party allegiance.
However, in their insular fascination with conflict, commercial journalists missed perhaps the most interesting part of this interview when Powell defended what George W. Bush did after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
COLIN POWELL: And one point I have to make. It really comes out of the things that have been written lately. That is in the first year after 9/11, we did everything we could to stop the possibility of another 9/11. We put in place the PATRIOT Act. We used enhanced interrogation techniques. I shut down for the most part the visa system until we could fix it. But after about a year-and-a-half when it looked like things were relatively secure and we were doing a better job, then we started to relax the visa system once we fixed it because we can't keep moving in that direction with putting people in jail forever without resolving their cases. We're not letting people come to our country.What Powell said Sunday is that the Bush administration after the attacks of September 11, 2001, did what it thought was necessary to prevent another terrorist attack. More than that, if they hadn't, and there had been a recurrence, "nobody would have forgiven us for not doing everything we could."
So it was natural to start shifting back to our more normal ways of doing business and dealing with the rest of the world after we had achieved a level of security.
We are more secure. I mean, my Republican friends sort of get mad when I say we need government. People want effective, responsible government. Republicans have not cut much government even though talk about limited government and cutting government. We created the Department of Homeland Security. Needed. We created the Transportation Security Agency that guards our terminals where people go in and out. Needed. We created a director of national intelligence. Needed. The American people want to see a FEMA that takes care of us in hurricanes and tornadoes. The American people want to see federal regulators making sure we never get into the kind of financial problem we had last year. And we're working our way out of it.
So there is a need for government. What the American people want not just slogans, limited government. They want effective government. Government that works and just as much as we need. But if we need it, let's have it.
BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST: All right. Let me ask you this. The former vice president said he had no regrets about the methods that were used including waterboarding. He actually authorized it. He says they may have saved thousands of lives. I want to ask you two questions. Do you agree with that? That these techniques were effective?
And number two, when did you know about this business, general?
POWELL: When we started to examine these techniques I was in some meetings where they were discussed.
POWELL: I was not privy to the memos that were being written or the legal opinions that were being written.
I think it was unfortunate but we had a system that kept that in a very compartmented manner. And so I was apart that these enhanced interrogation techniques were being considered. And they were judged not to be torture at the time.
And when you were facing the possibility of a 9/11, you had to give some -- some flexibility to the CIA. But it was under the Bush administration that they stopped using these techniques back in 19 -- in 2003.
So obviously the CIA did not feel that we had anybody else in our custody that would need to have these techniques used. And as a result...
SCHIEFFER: Do you think they were effective?
POWELL: ... they haven't been used -- I have no idea. I hear that they were. I hear that they weren't. You see people from the FBI who come out and say, we got all of that information before any of that was done. I cannot answer that question.
And the problem is, I don't know what I don't know.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this. Jan Crawford Greenburg of ABC News reported last year that the top people in the administration, you, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser, were actually brought in to meetings in the White House where these things were outlined. But you're saying you don't know -- at those meetings you're saying that nothing was (INAUDIBLE)?
POWELL: They were outlined. We were aware that these techniques were being discussed. And we were aware that legal opinions were being given that said they met the standard of the law.
But over time, now that we look at it, it's easy now in the cold light of day to look back and say, you shouldn't have done any of that. But as Mr. Cheney has said very, very often, as has President Bush and all of us, if we had another attack like 9/11, say on 9/11 a year later, nobody would have forgiven us for not doing everything we could.
And the CIA thought we needed those kinds of techniques but now we see that these are not appropriate.
(Report from newswire sources.)
Related: Powell to Republicans: Listen to moderates, too
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